Last Thursday, not long after a BB gun fell on the floor during a fight at Annandale High School, a suspected fentanyl overdose at Fairfax High School, and the choking of a boy on a school bus, teachers at Irving Middle School delivered a “social emotional learning” lesson on “white privilege.” The lesson, with no opt-out process, was in clear violation of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order One banning divisive concepts in K-12 education.
Unbeknownst to me, my son was one of the students who received the divisive lesson. It just so happened the school neglected to inform his parents.
This is a cautionary tale about the lessons being taught in America’s classrooms by educators who push political agendas without parental knowledge. It is also a window into the disturbing obfuscation that a school district engages in when parents try to be involved in the education of their children.
Middle School Teaches About ‘White Privilege’
The lesson, titled “What’s going on with you?” aims to teach students to “work on my ethical and global citizen skills so that I can be aware of the feelings of others and respectful of their point of view.” It includes a scolding message to students: “If you can’t be respectful of this video and the experiences shared, then YOU are part of the problem.”
As part of the lesson, students had to watch a video, “Being 12,” produced by WNYC, showing non-white children discussing the ways in which they are victims of racism. For example, a boy who is black and Muslim explains he is afraid of walking down the street. He says, “Cops might just think I’m doing something bad, and then if I try to explain to them, they won’t listen and then just start beating me up and doing terrible things to me.”
Meanwhile, a white girl in the video discusses “white privilege.” She says, “I think white privilege is the idea that in your everyday life, you’re getting treated … with more respect … because you’re white … I feel guilty for having a privilege that I, like, don’t deserve.”
Following the video, teachers asked students in their advisory classes questions about their experiences with racism: “What has been the most hurtful thing to happen to you? Has it been when someone has hit or physically hurt you or said something to you that personally attacks you, your family, or your culture? Have you ever had someone say something racist to you or a friend that upset you or your friend, or both?”
Given the increasing racial tensions in K-12 public education and persistent questions over curricula that violates Youngkin’s Executive Order One, this lesson is problematic, if not illegal. The intent is to teach impressionable young children that people with certain skin colors are perpetual victims or oppressed, and pale-skinned people are oppressors.
School Administrator Likely Violated the Law
To make matters worse, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has likely violated federal laws over parental rights by hiding the curriculum content from parents. On Feb. 17, I requested all “social emotional learning” lessons from the school principal, Cindy Conley. I still have not received them. Upon hearing about the “white privilege” lesson created by a teacher at Irving, I immediately sent an email to Conley requesting to see the lesson. Conley didn’t respond by day’s end, so I called her office after school hours.
On the call, Conley said she had forwarded my request to the school district’s office that responds to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests “as instructed.” I hadn’t sent her a FOIA request. This left me with questions.
Who had instructed Conley not to send me the lesson her employee created? And why are FCPS administrators erecting bureaucratic hurdles to prevent parents from accessing their children’s curricula, a right guaranteed to us via the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment?
Congress passed the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, known in the education industry as “PPRA,” in 1978. Authored by former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the PPRA states that parents have the right to inspect any instructional material upon request. If schools are not compliant with the PPRA, parents can report violations to the U.S. Department of Education.
Over the weekend, after having emailed back and forth with Conley to no avail, I sent an email to FCPS Region 4 Assistant Superintendent Penny Gros asserting my PPRA rights and forwarding my correspondence with Conley. Gros replied to me on Monday morning that “given the scope of your request, we will ensure you have the lesson today.” She added, “Ms. Conley is trying to ensure that she is following proper protocols.”
At 10:49 a.m. I got the lesson plan four days after it had been taught. This highlights an important issue emblematic in public schools: administrators seem to feel as though they do not need to answer to parents about what they are teaching our children.
Fairfax County Public Schools appears to be knowingly violating Executive Order One and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment. It tried to hide one lesson on “white privilege” from me, an enrolled student’s parent. What else is it hiding?