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An Open Letter to the Class of 2022

Dear Class of 2022:

You are the third group of high school seniors to have your senior year during the COVID pandemic.

The Class of 2020 did not see this pandemic coming. In the spring of their senior year, our nation abruptly shut down in the face of a pandemic we did not understand. No senior proms. No senior trips. No spring sports, conventions, contests, or gatherings. And no anticipated, traditional, in-person, graduation ceremony.

It was awful.

And no vaccine available for anybody, which made everybody all the more vulnerable.

Time passed. In the fall of 2020, the Class of 2021 started their senior year, the pandemic still with us. Remote learning, hybrid instruction, or full attendance were our options. Masking. Social distancing. No water fountains. Intentional limiting of opportunities for students to congregate. Incessant cleaning. And quarantine for those who came into contact with a person testing positive for COVID. It was a nuisance, but at the time, very few students ages 17 or 18 were contracting COVID and showing any symptoms. Sure, school admin may have tried to institute social distancing, but let’s be real: Seniors and other high-school-aged students were hanging out, business as usual, on their own time. Even some parents, in the name of giving students a normal senior year, arranged social situations that involved students gathering together in large groups. Sometimes these gatherings resulted in mass quarantine.

It seemed that teens were for the most part immune to COVID, with very few who did test positive actually experiencing symptoms.

COVID seemed to be a problem for older people, especially the elderly.

Not teens. Not us.

In December 2020, amazingly, COVID vaccines became available, but only for certain individuals, including the elderly. And just as the Class of 2021 was wrapping up its odd-at-best, COVID-beset senior year, in April 2021, vaccines became available to 17-year-olds.

No vaccine for the Class of 2021 until the end of their senior year. Still, that didn’t seem to be much of a problem since COVID was An Issue for Older People.

Not teens. Not us.

So here we are, ready to begin a new school year.

The Class of 2022’s time has come.

So has the Delta Variant.

Think of it as COVID that has learned some lessons of survival.

The Delta Variant is much more likely to lead to hospitalization and death in those who are not vaccinated. I’m not exaggerating. It is more contagious that original COVID. And consider this, from, “5 Things to Know about the Delta Variant,” published in Yale Medicine:

“As older age groups get vaccinated, those who are younger and unvaccinated will be at higher risk of getting COVID-19 with any variant,” says Dr. Yildirim.  “But Delta seems to be impacting younger age groups more than previous variants.”

Uh oh.

Could be teens.

Could be us.

So, here’s the deal, Class of 2022:

I want you to have a senior year as close to pre-pandemic “normal” as is possible. I want you to be able to enjoy as much of the social aspect of being a high school senior as you can.

The best way to promote normalcy and confront the Delta Variant is to be vaccinated.

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a country with ample COVID vaccine available for anyone 12 years of age and older who wants to walk in off of the street and receive a shot at any number of locations, including thousands of pharmacies.

That includes you, Class of 2022. Right now, even as you are reading this post, COVID vaccine is available to you.

Do it for yourself. Do it for your friends and family to boost their confidence in your safety against this frenzied Delta Variant.

If you have no condition preventing you from being vaccinated against COVID, please do your part to help prevent yourself from possibly becoming hospitalized from that Delta Variant in your senior year.

I would much have Healthy You seated in my classroom.

Sincerely,

–Dr. Schneider

Vaccinated, Senior English Teacher

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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FL: Student Data Used to Tag Kids as Potential Criminals

In September 2020, the Tampa Bay Times published a piece, “Targeted,” about an intelligence-enabled invasion of privacy The writers waste no time getting to the point:

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco took office in 2011 with a bold plan: to create a cutting-edge intelligence program that could stop crime before it happened.

What he actually built was a system to continuously monitor and harass Pasco County residents, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

First the Sheriff’s Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by police analysts.

Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.

They swarm homes in the middle of the night, waking families and embarrassing people in front of their neighbors. They write tickets for missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass, saddling residents with court dates and fines. They come again and again, making arrests for any reason they can.

If that’s not bad enough, this terrible program was allowed access to student data with the local school district’s blessing.

In November 2020, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Pasco County (FL) Schools was sharing student data with law enforcement without parental knowledge in order to enable the Pasco Sheriff’s Office to categorize students according to the alleged likelihood that a given student would “fall into a life of crime.”

Those students’ names were then put on a list.

Yep.

The criteria are outlined in a Sheriff’s Department manual. From the Tampa Bay Times article:

The Pasco Sheriff’s Office keeps a secret list of kids it thinks could “fall into a life of crime” based on factors like whether they’ve been abused or gotten a D or an F in school, according to the agency’s internal intelligence manual.

The Sheriff’s Office assembles the list by combining the rosters for most middle and high schools in the county with records so sensitive, they’re protected by state and federal law. …

The process largely plays out in secret. The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t tell the kids or their parents about the designation. In an interview, schools superintendent Kurt Browning said he was unaware the Sheriff’s Office was using school data to identify kids who might become criminals. So were the principals of two high schools. …

Ten experts in law enforcement and student privacy questioned the justification for combing through thousands of students’ education and child-welfare records.

They called the program highly unusual. Many said it was a clear misuse of children’s confidential information that stretched the limits of the law.

“Can you imagine having your kid in that county and they might be on a list that says they may become a criminal?” said Linnette Attai, a consultant who helps companies and schools comply with student privacy laws.

It seems that in response to the Tampa Bay Times reporting, the US Department of Education (USDOE) opened an investigation of the practice. The Orlando Sentinel via the Associated Press reported on this on April 19, 2021, though the USDOE has its most recent (and only 2021) investigation related to Pasco County Schools dated May 18, 2021. Apparently the USDOE investigation is pending. From the Sentinel:

NEW PORT RICHEY — The U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into whether a Florida school district broke federal law when it shared private information about students with the local sheriff’s office.

The Pasco County School District shared information on student grades, discipline and attendance with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The agency then used the data to compile a list of students officials believed could “fall into a life of crime,” the newspaper reported.

The agency is already facing a federal lawsuit that the intelligence-based policing program violates people’s rights by improperly targeting and harassing them. Sheriff Chris Nocco’ rejects the claims in the lawsuit filed last month in Tampa.

The lawsuit referenced above was filed in March 2021. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco is listed as the defendant; plaintiffs are three individuals allegedly harrassed by police in the name of future crime prevention. From the lawsuit’s introduction:

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office punishes people for crimes they have not yet committed and may never commit. It first predicts that certain people may commit future crimes, and then it harasses these people—and their relatives and friends—with relentless visits to their homes at all hours of the day, with unwarranted stops and seizures, and with repeated citations for petty code violations. In the words of a former Pasco deputy, the policy is meant to “[m]ake their lives miserable until they move or sue.” Here, four Pasco County residents sue under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, hereinafter the “PCSO,” has adopted an official policy and widespread custom of harassing individuals and their families because it thinks they are likely to commit unspecified future crimes. The PCSO refers to this policy and custom as its “Intelligence-Led Policing Program,” and for ease of reference this Complaint refers to this policy and custom simply as “the Program.” Under the Program, the PCSO uses questionable criteria (such as whether one is a bystander in other people’s police reports) to compile a list of individuals who, it believes, are likely to commit crimes in the future. The PCSO then subjects these individuals—referred to in the Complaint as Targeted Persons— as well as their families to “relentless pursuit, arrest, and prosecution” to, in the words of Sheriff Chris Nocco, “take them out.”

PCSO deputies repeatedly make unannounced visits to the homes of Targeted Persons—who are often minors—during which deputies demand entry to the home or information about a Targeted Person’s comings and goings. While there, PCSO deputies also gather additional information about a Targeted Person’s familial and social networks so that PCSO deputies can identify, catalog, track, and visit those individuals as well. PCSO deputies routinely threaten friends and family members who allegedly do not cooperate with deputies enforcing the Program. And during visits to listed individuals’ or their families’ homes, deputies initiate pretextual code enforcement actions—actions which have no connection to the original purpose of the visit. PCSO routinely ignores requests that these visits stop. Likewise, PCSO deputies typically do not leave when residents ask them to do so. Instead, when individuals object to the unwanted visits, PCSO deputies subdue,arrest, and sometimes imprison Targeted Persons or their family and friends.

Meanwhile, in May 2021, the Pasco County School Board “updated” its data sharing agreement with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office– sort of.

From the May 04, 2021, WFLA.com:

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Pasco County School Board approved an updated agreement with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office regarding student information that was shared on Tuesday.

“Voluntarily removes School Resource Officers’ (SROs) access to student data, including student grades, attendance, and discipline. Additionally, under the agreement, SROs will no longer have access to the school district’s Early Warning System, which designates which students are considered off-track, on-track, or at-risk.”

Members of the Sheriff’s Office Real Time Crime Center will maintain access as they currently have for use in the narrow instances of school threat assessments and public safety emergencies, such as a missing or abducted child or a threat to a school campus.

However, as stated in the agreement, this access will not include grades. The updated agreement provides for an audit process through which sheriff’s office personnel will create a record of any school district data they access, as well as the reason it was necessary, in line with legislative mandates, according to the joint statement. …

The People Against the Surveillance of Children and Over-policing (PASCO) Coalition sent a letter this week demanding the district stop sharing student information.

The PASCO Coalition issued the following statement today after the changes were approved:

“The PASCO Coalition is extremely disappointed by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office (“Sheriff”) and the Pasco County School Board’s (“District”) announcement of “revisions” to their data-sharing agreement. While these revisions were touted as reforms that were responsive to the “distracting” criticisms the program was receiving, these revisions do not go far enough in limiting the Sheriff’s access to student records. The revisions claim to remove SROs’ access to student data, but maintain access for various other agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office itself. There continues to be a lack of transparency. The Sheriff and the District have again excluded the community, including parents from this process. Our coalition also has outstanding concerns about the way that this predictive policing program has and will continue to impact Pasco County families. These are fully addressed in the open letter we sent to the District today, in advance of the school board meeting. We urge the District and Sheriff to carefully consider and engage with the numerous issues that we have identified in our open letter as they move forward.”

“In today’s school board meeting, the District unanimously voted to approve an undisclosed revised data sharing agreement with the Sheriff that does not significantly change the original one. However, the item was not on the agenda, there was no opportunity for public comment, and, to our knowledge, there still has been no opportunity for the public to review and provide feedback on the revised agreement. The PASCO Coalition obtained a copy of the revised agreement through a public records request to the District, and the revisions are insufficient to protect the rights of children whose information will still be accessible to the Sheriff’s Office.”

“The PASCO Coalition is extremely concerned about the continued lack of transparency, community-driven solutions, and public input around this program. Neither the District nor the Sheriff has addressed what the Sheriff is doing with the 20 years of student records in its possession. Further, there is no process to notify parents and guardians about whether their children’s information was provided to the Sheriff, and if so, how it was used. Given the Sheriff’s and District’s admissions about the unfettered access that was permitted for decades, these concerns must be addressed. In addition, questions remain about the ways in which this program especially targets children of color, children with disabilities, and low-income students for police monitoring and surveillance. Those students and their parents or guardians deserve to have their questions answered by the Sheriff and the District.”

“Furthermore, we have no assurances that the District will permanently prevent similar predictive practices from re-emerging once national attention has abated. This was only a revision to the contract that expires at the end of the 2020-21 school year. Nor is it clear that the current agreement has substantially limited access to federally-protected student records by the Sheriff’s Office as a whole, given vague language in the revised agreement that allows the Board to disclose student data to “other appropriate individuals” at its discretion,  the fact that other staff members of the Sheriff’s Office will still have access to this protected data, and the absence of any stated parameters around how this data may be used or shared within their office.”

“We need comprehensive policy overhauls and systems of accountability for meaningful reform and to prevent this from happening in the future. That process requires community at the table to design long-term solutions and to begin the process of rebuilding trust in the District and Sheriff’s Office.”

A school district agreeing to such an arrangement is ________. (You fill it in. I’m at a loss.)

I’m guessing they haven’t been touched by that list.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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House Appropriations Prohibits Fed Funds for… Electric Shock to Students(??)

I am reading the House Appropriations Committee’s budget proposal for the Department of Education (which begins on page 138 of the entire, 198-page document), and I noticed on pages 164-165 what I thought to be an strange prohibition for federal funding:

Sec. 313. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Department of Education to support an educational institution that engages in the use of electric shock devices and equipment for adversive conditioning or disciplining of students.

I wondered what in the world prompted legislators to include such a prohibition, so I Googled, “schools electric shock devices,” and found my answer.

A Massachusetts school has been using electric shock as a means for controlling behavior in students with limited intellectual ability. In March 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the practice, and in July 2021, the FDA ban was overturned on appeal. From the UK Independent:

The Judge Rotenberg Center, Canton, is the only school in the US that uses electric shock treatment on its students, and has suffered heavy criticism from disability rights advocates, including Mental Disability Rights International (DRI) and the United Nations, which considers the practice “torture”.

“The idea of using electric shocks to torture children has been recognised as unconscionable around the world,” DRI’s president, Laurie Ahern, told the Guardian.

“The real torture is what these children are subjected to if they don’t have this programme,” institute and treatment founder Matthew Israel previously said to ABC News. “They’re drugged up to the gills with drugs that cause them to be so sedated that they essentially sleep all day.”

However, a 2006 report by the New York State Education Department found that the device was regularly used for minor disobedience and “behaviours that are not aggressive, health dangerous or destructive, such as nagging, swearing and failing to maintain a neat appearance”.

The report also found no evidence that the school “considers the potential negative effects, such as depression or anxiety, that may result from the use of aversive behavioural strategies with certain individual students”.

So, there’s the answer: One school is using electric shock on some of its special needs clientele; the FDA prohibited such usage; some parents sued and won on appeal to have the use of electric shock continue, and House Appropriations cannot prohibit the practice but wants to prohibit the use of federal money funding any schools using electric shock on students.

Well. I didn’t see myself writing about this today.

Electric shock device attached to ankle

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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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AERDF: Waltons Join Bill Gates and CZI for Latest-Greatest K12 Ed Fix

Nothing like a few billionaires combining forces to toss cash at a few pitre-dished school districts for a *latest, greatest idea* for K12 education. This latest-greatest was first announced in 2018 as a Gates-CZI (Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative) idea. In this June 2020 archive, Gates reported that “ask[ing] nearly 1,000 educators what they need to be successful” resulted in the EF+Math Program. From the EF+Math home page:

All Students Are Poweful Learners

Our mission is to challenge the way people think about how students learn. Students from all backgrounds are equally capable of success in math. The EF+Math Program is a new initiative to fund bold approaches through inclusive discovery and development to dramatically increase math outcomes for students in grades 3-8. We focus on students who have been traditionally underserved. They deserve access to the best resources and tools to help them reach their full potential. We focus on foundational skills necessary for learning: executive functions. Executive functions allow students to have agency over their attention, emotions and behavior to achieve their goals. Executive functions are an essential asset that every student has. We want students to know how to use them to learn anything.

Now, in 2021, it seems that in keeping with its 2025 K12 education strategy of “accelerat[ing] breakthrough innovation,” the Waltons have joined in.

Thus, as Matt Barnum reports on July 21, 2021, in Chalkbeat, Gates, CZI, and (now) the Waltons are in it together to the tune of $200M in the name of a new nonprofit, Advanced Education Research & Development Fund (AERDF):

AERDF (pronounced AIR-dif) says its focus will be on what it calls “inclusive R&D,” or bringing together people with different expertise, including educators, to design and test practical ideas like improving assessments and making math classes more effective.

Still, the ideas will have “moonshot ambitions,” said the group’s CEO Stacey Childress.

“One of our mottos for our program teams and the projects they fund is ‘heads in clouds and boots on the ground,’” she said

AERDF received its IRS nonprofit exemption effective October 13, 2020 (see IRS determination letter here) and shares an address and CEO with NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF) (1616 Franklin Street, Second Floor, Oakland, CA 94612). AERDF-NSVF CEO Stacey Childress was formerly with the Gates Foundation, so already this AERDF idea is Gates Warmed Over.

As Barnum reports, the three pitre-dish districts for what appears to be the EF+Math Program under the new umbrella of nonprofit AERDF under the umbrella of not-new NSVF are Newark, NJ; Vista Unified, CA, and Middletown, OH.

There are a lot of folks on the EF+Math payroll.

The question is, will there be an EF+Math Program or an AERDF in five years? Ten years?

Cut to a nonchalant Bill Gates in the September 27, 2013, Washington Post:

It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.

When the billionaires get tired, they can cancel funding at will and potentially leave school districts in a lurch, which is what Gates did with his push for small schools and teacher evaluation.

Gates, CZI, and Walton all operate mega-nonprofits, and now, they’re using yet another nonprofit (NSVF) to incubate yet another nonprofit (AERDF).

One thing ed reform loves to do is pack the K12 educational space with lots of ed-reform nonprofits.

Odds are that EF+Math and AERDF will both have lost their billionaire-induced shine long before 2031.

Bill Gates

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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (if you dare) @deutsch29blog

American Bar Association: CRT and Education

For those who are hearing the term “critical race theory” (CRT) and who wish to know more about what is behind the term, I offer excerpts particularly focused on education and CRT from this January 12, 2021, article from the American Bar Association:

(Note that twice that “interrogating/interrogation” is used when “integrating/integration” seems to fit the context.)

CRT is not a diversity and inclusion “training” but a practice of interrogating (integrating?) the role of race and racism in society that emerged in the legal academy and spread to other fields of scholarship. … CRT recognizes that racism is not a bygone relic of the past. Instead, it acknowledges that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color continue to permeate the social fabric of this nation. 

CRT does not define racism in the traditional manner as solely the consequence of discrete irrational bad acts perpetrated by individuals but is usually the unintended (but often foreseeable) consequence of choices. It exposes the ways that racism is often cloaked in terminology regarding “mainstream,” “normal,” or “traditional” values or “neutral” policies, principles, or practices. And, as scholar Tara Yosso asserts, CRT can be an approach used to theorize, examine, and challenge the ways which race and racism implicitly and explicitly impact social structures, practices, and discourses. CRT observes that scholarship that ignores race is not demonstrating “neutrality” but adherence to the existing racial hierarchy. For the civil rights lawyer, this can be a particularly powerful approach for examining race in society. Particularly because CRT has recently come under fire, understanding CRT and some of its primary tenets is vital for the civil rights lawyer who seeks to eradicate racial inequality in this country.

The originators of CRT include Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Cheryl Harris, Richard Delgado, Patricia Williams, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Tara Yosso, among others. CRT transcends a Black/white racial binary and recognizes that racism has impacted the experiences of various people of color, including Latinx, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. As a result, different branches, including LatCrit, TribalCrit, and AsianCRT have emerged from CRT. These different branches seek to examine specific experiences of oppression. CRT challenges white privilege and exposes deficit-informed research that ignores, and often omits, the scholarship of people of color. CRT began in the legal academy in the 1970s and grew in the 1980s and 1990s. It persists as a field of inquiry in the legal field and in other areas of scholarship. Mari Matsudi described CRT as the work of progressive legal scholars seeking to address the role of racism in the law and the work to eliminate it and other configurations of subordination. …

In the field of education, Daniel Solórzano has identified tenets of CRT that, in addition to the impact of race and racism and the challenge to the dominant ideology of the objectivity of scholarship, include a commitment to social justice; centering the experiential knowledge of people of color; and using multiple approaches from a variety of disciplines to analyze racism within both historical and contemporary contexts, such as women’s studies, sociology, history, law, psychology, film, theater, and other fields.

Some of the most compelling demonstrations of how racism has been replicated through systems is within the education system. Many can recall images of troops escorting nine Black students to integrate Little Rock Central High School. Or Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans Elementary School by armed guards six years after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated racially segregated education in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Those moments are just snapshots of the intersection of racism, the law, and the education system. This article provides just a snapshot of CRT, and the following explanation is a glimpse of the application of CRT in education. But the explanation below seeks to capture how CRT applies to the education system, particularly in addressing how racial inequality persists in the post–civil rights era.

Education and CRT

Segregated schooling is a particularly profound and timely demonstration of the persistence of systemic racism in education. For example, Brown is often couched in terms of American exceptionalism. But Gloria Ladson-Billings and other CRT originators in the field of education recognizethat Brown was the culmination of over a century of legal challenges to segregated schooling and second-class citizenship and far from a natural occurrence or inevitable result of racial progress. The late Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell, in Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma, noted that the Fourteenth Amendment alone could not effectively promote racial equality for Black people where such a remedy threatened the superior social status of wealthy white people. Further, Bell noted that Brown was decided the way it was because of what he termed “interest convergence,” which is the recognition that the interests of Black people in achieving racial equality will be accommodated only when it converges with the interests of white people.

Therefore, Browns legal invalidation of racial segregation in education held some benefits for white policymakers as well as for Black students. Chief among these, Bell argued, was not the moral imperative of ending legal segregation but restoring the credibility of America’s image abroad. As the nation waged a Cold War, it became increasingly difficult for the country to justify its racial caste system, Bell observed. Further, the Brown ruling was limited in its relief, and the persistence of racial inequality following the civil rights era implicates the law in maintaining racial inequality. For example, the Supreme Court failed to outline a specific remedy to achieve integrated education. As Ladson-Billings notes in Landing on the Wrong Note: The Price We Paid for Brown of Brown II decided in 1955, it can be seen as a combination of flawed compromises that combined a denouncement of legal segregation with a limited and unworkable remedy. It took years of subsequent litigation over the ensuing decades until the Court finally mandated that school districts act to uproot all vestiges of segregation “root and branch.” 

A particular limitation of legal efforts to address racial inequality has been the inability of many legal mandates to reach the covert and insidious nature of de factoracism. This has proved that eradicating racial inequality in education is not merely an exercise in ending legal segregation. For example, achieving racial balance, as Bell asserted, did not obviate the need to address other systemic practices that perpetuate racial inequality within diverse schools, such as the loss of Black faculty and administrators, many of whom lost their jobs in the wake of Brown as retribution for aiding school desegregation efforts. Bell observed that changing demographic patterns, white flight, and the reluctance of the courts to urge the necessary degree of social reform rendered further progress in Brown virtually impossible.

The limitations of legal interventions have led to current manifestations of racial inequality in education, including:

  • The predominance of curriculum that excludes the history and lived experiences of Americans of color and imposes a dominant white narrative of history;
  • Deficit-oriented instruction that characterizes students of color as in need of remediation;
  • Narrow assessments, the results of which are used to confirm narratives about the ineducability of children of color;
  • School discipline policies that disproportionately impact students of color and compromise their educational outcomes (such as dress code policies prohibiting natural Black hairstyles);
  • School funding inequities, including the persistent underfunding of property-poor districts, many of which are composed primarily of children of color; and
  • The persistence of racially segregated education.

School funding inequities are exemplified in many racially and socioeconomically isolated districts, such as Detroit’s public schools. In 1940, shortly before Verda Bradley arrived in Detroit, Black Americans comprised 9.2 percent of the city’s population. Over 30 years later, when her children went to school, Black Americans comprised 44.5 percent of the city’s population. The ratio of Black students to white students was 58 to 41 in 1967. Seeking to desegregate the city’s schools, Bradley and other parents who were represented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People alleged that Michigan maintained a racially segregated public school system through policies that isolated Black students within the city’s public schools. Due to racially discriminatory housing practices, Black families were excluded from the surrounding suburbs populated by white families that fled the city to avoid integrating the schools. However, in Milliken v. Bradley, the Supreme Court rejected a desegregation plan that encompassed Detroit’s public schools and the surrounding all-white suburbs. In exempting the surrounding suburban districts from the desegregation plan, the Court held that they were not required to be part of the desegregation plan because district lines had not been drawn with “racist intent” and the surrounding suburbs were not responsible for the segregation within the city’s schools. The Court left Detroit to desegregate within itself. In his prescient dissent, Thurgood Marshall observed, “The Detroit-only plan has no hope of achieving actual desegregation. . . . Instead, Negro children will continue to attend all-Negro schools. The very evil that Brown was aimed at will not be cured but will be perpetuated.”

Consequently, in 2000, the ratio of Black students to white students in Detroit’s public schools was 91 to 4. The city’s racially isolated public schools are also profoundly under-resourced. Recent litigation—Gary B. v. Whitmer—brought on behalf of students in Detroit’s public schools illuminates the state of the schools in the decades following Milliken. In their complaint, the plaintiffs describe deteriorating facilities that lack heat and are infested with vermin. They describe the absence of qualified educators that resulted in a middle schooler serving as a substitute teacher. But students like the Gary B. plaintiffs (and students in similarly racially isolated and under-resourced districts) are left with little recourse given that the Supreme Court held in 1973’s San Antonio v. Rodriguez that there is no federal right to education.

Instead, the Gary B. plaintiffs brought a novel claim alleging that they were entitled to a minimum level of education that enabled them to achieve at least a basic level of literacy. The decision of the Court of Appeals in favor of the plaintiffs was ultimately set aside, and the state of Michigan reached a settlement with the plaintiffs. However, from a CRT perspective, the case is instructive about how the law can reproduce racial inequality. By rejecting a desegregation plan that sought to transcend the racial divisions imposed by discriminatory housing practices, the Court essentially foreclosed the possibility of implementing a workable desegregation strategy, and racial and economic inequality persisted unabated. CRT recognizes the inevitability of the segregated and under-resourced schools at issue in the Gary B. litigation, given Millikens indifference to the nature of covert discrimination decades earlier.

CRT and a Call to Action for Civil Rights Lawyers

The example of application of CRT to education in the case of Milliken illustrates how CRT recognizes the role of the law in perpetuating racial inequality. Employing a CRT framework necessitates interrogation (integration?) of systems and structures in which we function. The Milliken example also implicates the impact of discriminatory housing policies and school financing systems in perpetuating racially isolated and under-resourced schools in Detroit and recognizes that education policy does not operate in a vacuum.

End of excerpt.

There is nothing in this article about instituting activities in K12 classrooms whereby students are labeled or told to self-identify as “oppressor” and “oppressed.” Moreover, this article does not present CRT as a K12 curriculum, nor is it an indoctination scheme for teacher training programs any more than learning Freudian theory was an indoctination scheme in my training as a guidance counselor.

Still, I guarantee that this info will make some people uncomfortable in the same manner as did my investigating why my home parish of St. Bernard, Louisiana, decided to open a voucher school for white students in 1960 right across from the St. Bernard-Orleans Parish line, or as did my asking why in 1966-67 St. Bernard’s middle and high schools were integrated by race but segregated by gender.

I’ll leave it at that.

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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter @deutsch29blog

Fantastic Article about CRT “Good News” from a Texas Baptist

I just had to post this in full.

From the June 14, 2021, Baptist News Global:

Why Critical Race Theory Could Be Good News for “Nice White People”

Craig Nash

A bedrock theological concept of my formation as a white American evangelical was the idea, best articulated by Paul in Romans 14-20, that there is a war going on within all of us between those things that are good and that we want to embrace but don’t, and those things that aren’t good that we don’t want to embrace, but always seem to find a way to embrace. Or, to borrow words from a more recent evangelical prophet, Rich Mullins, in his song Hold Me Jesus: “Surrender don’t come natural to me. I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than to take what you give that I need.”

I’ve reflected on this concept lately as I observe the battles over Critical Race Theory, a framework that argues racism is structurally embedded within our institutions, policies and deeply held myths. There is a movement among policymakers, religious leaders and talking heads to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools, as the concept has become the latest bogeyman in the culture wars.

This is all confusing to me, because Critical Race Theory gives us “nice white people” everything we’ve ever wanted with regard to fighting racism. Almost.

I grew up in rural East Texas, the most culturally Southern region of the state, in the 1980s and ’90s. By the time I entered public schools, an entire generation of students had experienced integration, and the process of desegregation through “white flight” and the creation of new private schools was only just beginning in more populous areas like Tyler and Longview. Although still predominantly white, the racial makeup of my school and the circles I ran in looked, more or less, like the demographics of my town. This set the backdrop by which I, and many of my friends, tried to make sense of a world where what we understood as “racism” existed in the past, albeit in the recent past of our parents’ and grandparents’ worlds.

In the church, we made sense of this world in a couple of ways. First, our definition of “racism” allowed for two types of people: Bad Racists and Good Non-Racists. We knew Jesus wanted Christians to be the “good people,” and so that is what we endeavored to be. “We aren’t racist,” we argued, “we love everyone.” Our mission was not to be the bad guys.

Second, assuming that “racism” was mostly over, or at least in its final throes of death, we sought to finish the job by being people of action. When a person of color told stories of being marginalized, our response wasn’t to sit with them in their pain and hear what they were really saying, but rather to fix the situation: “OK, well what do you want me to do?” Of course, we already had the answer to our own question in our mind. We would just be nicer and encourage others to be nicer, and then that would fix things.

Fixing things and being nice. Being nice and fixing things. It was our battle cry.

Which is why the visceral reaction of nice white people against Critical Race Theory is so perplexing. Critical Race Theory argues that being a good or bad person is really kind of irrelevant in the fight against racism.

Black people are incarcerated at much higher rates than white people for the same crimes whether I’m a nice white person or a hateful white person.

I think I’m a nice person, but my niceness did nothing to eliminate the conditions by which Hispanic Americans were twice as likely to be infected and three times as likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19.

My relative niceness or meanness doesn’t change wealth gaps that are the result of years of redlining, mental health struggles among indigenous people caused by generations of forced displacement, or the fact Kyle Rittenhouse could walk right by officers holding the weapon he had just used to kill two people while Tamir Rice lay in a grave for playing with a toy gun.

Of course it is usually better to “be nice,” and to “love everybody” and can make fighting racism easier. While Critical Race Theory doesn’t guarantee that we will be seen as the nice people, it sets us free from the burden of needing to be. And here’s why: It gives us the second thing we’ve always wanted — something to do.

If racism isn’t simply hating someone of another race, but rather a complex system of structures, national myths and policies that serve to benefit one group at the expense of others, as Critical Race Theory posits, then this is good news for us nice white people, because in listening to the voices and following the leadership of those for whom racism most effects it gives us a job to do: Dismantle the structures. Expose the myths. Change the policies. It’s not an easy job, but it is a simple one.

If we are really committed to being “good people” and want to take concrete action to repair the damage done by racism, then why are so many among us so committed to eliminating a framework of understanding that makes those things possible?

I think it is because Critical Race Theory gives nice white people everything we’ve ever wanted, except for the one thing we hold on to most tightly: Control. When describing racism as being about structures, myths and institutions instead of about personal feelings toward someone with different skin tones, the common response from many white people is, “Wait, you don’t get to just redefine racism!” It seems like a valid response, but the subtext is really, “We’ve already defined what racism is, and it has worked just fine for us up to this point.”

It turns out that defining racism as a personal disposition was by design. At the very least, the perpetuation of this common definition serves a purpose, which is to absolve us white people of guilt. If we get to define the terms and frame the conversation, then we get to be the good guys, because we get to define what is good, and the ones who determine how the scourge of racism gets fixed. We get to have the power, which is exactly what Critical Race Theory exposes.

To use a common phrase from my rural East Texas Baptist upbringing, it’s time for us to stop “white-knuckling the pews” and let go. We were told by the evangelists to surrender our control, and that what we give up when we walk down the aisle pales in comparison to what we gain. I think that may be true on both an earthly level as well as an eternal one. A more Christ-honoring world is possible when we lay our power, including the power to define and frame conversations, down on the altar.


CRAIG NASH lives in Waco, Texas, and works for the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. He is a graduate of East Texas Baptist University and Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. He is active in the life of University Baptist Church in Waco.

Craig Nash

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Twitter Reflections from Reporter Who Broke Nikole Hannah-Jones Tenure Story

Joe Killian is the reporter with NC Policy Watch who broke the story (byline shared with Kyle Ingram) of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ UNC-Chapel Hill tenure slight. He was also the first to report on Hannah-Jones’ declining UNC-Chapel Hill’s belated tenure offer and her decision to join the faculty at Howard University.

At the center of Hannah-Jones’ tenure denial is UNC-Chapel Hill megadonor, Walter Hussman, who Killian also interviewed in this June 03, 2021, NC Policy Watch piece in which Hussman denies “pressuring anybody.” (UNC’s school of journalism is now the UNC Hussman School of Journalism.)

Nikole Hannah-Jones

In a thread on Twitter on July 06, 2021, Killian insightfully reflects on the two individuals central to this tenure story, Hannah-Jones and Hussman– and who among the three of them built journalism careers from the bottom up.

He also talks boxing (“Stay with me here….”)

It’s a great read. (Note: I learned of Killian’s Twitter thread from this July 06, 2021, Poynter article. I also added some of the links.)

From Joe Killian:

Meeting with #NikoleHannahJones for an interview this week made me reflect on my June interview with Walter Hussman, the conservative Arkansas media magnate and #UNC megadonor who lobbied against hiring her. It’s worth talking a bit about these two people and interviews.

When I interviewed Hussman last month, he projected an intense folksiness — sort of Mr. Rogers meets Bill Clinton. Given Hussman’s history with the Clintons in Arkansas, he might not love that comparison. But it’s apt.

A part of this was Hussman saying to me, repeatedly, “Well, Joe, you and I are both reporters…” or “Well, since we’re both journalists I think you understand…” This is a common rhetorical device. Find an area of common ground, assert affinity, create a bond.

Reporters — including yours truly — employ this in our work all the time. If I find out someone is from the part of Eastern NC where I was born, if they have a connection to the military or went to my college, I know we have a point of common reference.

As we do it all the time, reporters notice when it’s done to us– particularly by politicians and PR people. A lot of people worked in a newsroom for a year or two in their 20s before figuring out they could buy things with money. So there’s a lot of “You know, I was a reporter.”

Walter Hussman can legitimately say that to people — with a few important asterisks. After journalism and business school, Hussman was briefly a reporter before, at age 27, he was made publisher of a paper in the family media dynasty he would go on to inherit.

When I was 27 years old I was a beat reporter on a daily newspaper going to fires, murder scenes, protests and government meetings. I practically slept in the newsroom, which was much nicer than my apartment, and took side gigs to afford to sleep indoors and eat while reporting.

That sort of experience — slowly clawing your way up from smaller to larger newsrooms, being mentored by veteran reporters, slowly earning bigger beats and more responsibility over many years — is what I’m supposed to assume I share with someone who says “I was a reporter.”

Those are, as it happens, experiences I do share with Nikole Hannah-Jones. As a Black woman, she had to work longer and harder than I did to get ahead in newsrooms. With more grit and talent, she’s earned much more success. But we both worked our way up from working class roots.

Neither of us were, in our mid twenties, handed news outlets by our families. Neither of us were allowed to lose enormous amounts of money in years-long, heavily political newspaper wars until we crushed our rivals, assumed dominance and expanded our intergenerational empires.

I suspected this may be one of the things that most offended Hannah-Jones about Hussman questioning her media values and credentials, whether she was fit to teach young journalists. And my interview with her confirmed it.

Hussman did not work his way from the Chapel Hill News to the New York Times. His reporting and writing haven’t earned him Peabody, Polk, Pulitzer and National Magazine Awards. His name isn’t on UNC-Chapel Hill’s journalism school (J-school) because of his staggering reporting achievements.

Understanding, as he must, the difference between his CV and that of Nikole Hannah-Jones, he still felt the need to tell Susan King, dean of the J-School and UNC-Chapel Hill, he was against her hire. King said thanks for the input, but the J-School would make the decision.

Did Hussman respect the decision of the dean, herself a pioneering woman in journalism? Leave the issue to the stellar J-School faculty? No. He contacted the chancellor. He contacted the vice chancellor in charge of financial giving. He contacted at least one member of the BOT (Board of Trustees).

As students, faculty and even members of the BOT have noted, this was enormously inappropriate. Strictly speaking, Hussman shouldn’t even have known the school was pursuing Hannah-Jones. His $25 million donation to the school gave him information and access few alums enjoy.

Using that privileged position, Hussman weighed in on a potential hire at UNC repeatedly and at levels to which even other prominent alumni do not have access. It shocked not just students and faculty at the school but even other well-connected, well-heeled donors.

When Hussman didn’t get what he wanted — assent from the dean of the J-School and the administration to his objections– the school offered to set up a meeting between Hussman and Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones told me she declined.

Having accomplished so much in journalism, Hannah-Jones did not feel inclined to kiss the ring of a wealthy white scion who thought his money bought him special access and input into the faculty recruiting process. I don’t know many real reporters who’d blame her.

With Hannah-Jones now on her way to Howard University to create the new Center for Journalism and Democracy, I find myself looking at all that happened here — and how it happened — and thinking not just about journalism but about boxing. (Stay with me here…)

Learning to box as a teenager, I was taught some lessons that have stood me in good stead outside of the ring for the rest of my life — particularly in journalism. Call them “core values” if you must. One of them is this: “The more you sweat, the less you bleed.”

In boxing, putting in the work before a fight — hours on the heavy and speed bags, sparring, road work — prepares you for what’s coming. In journalism, reporting and writing stories big and small — sometimes two or more a day, for years — prepares you to cover anything.

Whatever you may think of her, it’s impossible to credibly argue Hannah-Jones hasn’t put in the work. As a veteran of newspaper newsrooms, I assure you Black women still have to work twice as hard for half as much success. To have the success she’s had? Just imagine the work.

So this fight? Having to prove to conservative white men that she, a Black woman who has won the Peabody, Polk and Pulitzer prizes, is fit to teach journalism to teenagers? She was ready for it.

In the end, she got what most faculty, staff and alumni agreed she deserved: a public, up or down vote on whether she should, like all her white Knight Chair predecessors, be offered tenure. That she won’t be accepting the offer says more about UNC than it does her.

In our interview, Hannah-Jones made it clear: The silence and lack of transparency from school leadership – particularly Guskiewicz – made taking another offer inevitable. They could have prevented this, had they put in the work.

The more you sweat, the less you bleed.

Joe Killian

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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Democracy Prep’s CRT-Typed Festival of Idiocy

This December 2020 lawsuit by Nevada senior, William Clark, and his mother, Gabrielle Clark, illustrates on so many levels what NOT to do in the K12 classroom in the name of “fight[ing] back” against “oppressive structures.”

These excerpts from the suit tell quite a story of repeatedly poor decision making among Democracy Prep Public Schools (DPPS) leadership.

What you are about to read is a festival of idiocy.

From the “Factual Background” of the suit:

In 2014, Plaintiff William Clark enrolled in the sixth grade at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Clark County, Nevada. At the time Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy fell under the operational control of Clark County School District. In December of 2016, after receiving a $12.7 million grant from the US Department of Education, New York City based Democracy Prep Public Schools (DPPS) and Democracy Prep Public Schools Inc. acquired Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy.

DPPS’ acquisition of Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy was part of a larger national expansion. DPPS had grown from its initial class of 130 sixth-graders in New York City in 2006 to roughly 6,500 students in 21 schools today. In 2018, DPPS received $21.8 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter School Program to fund the opening of additional campuses around the country. On its website, DPPS projects its total enrollment to be 10,000 students nationally. DPPS asserts it “funds all of its schools with only the public money we receive from the city, state, and federal government,” but at the same time “seeks private philanthropy for strategic initiatives separate from the running of its schools.” Despite their self-professed public status and exclusive reliance on public funding, DPAC or Democracy Prep Nevada LLC and DPPS applied for and received millions of dollars in Payroll Protection Program loans under the CARES Act this summer.

DPPS began implementing its “civics” curriculum at the newly acquired Agassi Campus in the Fall of 2017. The acquisition met with significant resistance from parents who were skeptical of the newly arrived New York organization. Defendant Natasha Trivers, DPPS’s interim CEO at the time, characterized the parental opposition to Democracy Prep in Las Vegas as comprised of “haters,” and lamented the difficulty of combating this opposition because of the sheer geographic distance between the school and the organization taking it over: “We’ve always dealt with the haters, so to speak, but that was haters on a really large scale.” She added that she regretted “not getting out in front of our parents so that they heard our voice louder than the detractors in a way that we just haven’t experienced before.”

Defendant Natasha Trivers at the time was interim CEO of DPPS during the medical leave and absence of Katie Duffy, who would later resign from DPPS. Upon her assumption of the role of full and permanent CEO more recently, Natasha Trivers began implementing a very different “civics” curriculum, although the generic name and syllabi provided to parents remained the same. Parents at DPAC were not made aware of the ideological turn in curriculum. In place of a conventional civics curriculum that addressed the workings of the democratic system, political history, and the importance of civic engagement, Trivers’ new DPPS curriculum inserted consciousness raising and conditioning exercises under the banner of “Intersectionality” and “Critical Race Theory.” These sessions, according to the instruction materials exhibited herein, are not descriptive or informational in nature, but normative and prescriptive: they require pupils to “unlearn” and “fight back” against “oppressive” structures allegedly implicit in their family arrangements, religious beliefs and practices, racial, sexual, and gender identities, all of which they are required to divulge and subject to non-private interrogation. Some racial, sexual, gender and religious identities, once revealed, are officially singled out in the programming as inherently problematic, and assigned pejorative moral attributes by Defendants.

Because the so-called “civics” curriculum implemented by Defendant Natasha Trivers carried the same name as the previous curriculum promoted by former DPPS CEO Katie Duffy, parents at DPAC like Gabrielle Clark were not aware of the turn towards coercive, ideological indoctrination until they began seeing the detrimental effects it worked upon their children.

At the end of August of this year, at the start of his final school year, William Clark began the year-long “Sociology of Change” class required for all DPAC seniors and taught by teacher Kathryn Bass. The class runs in tandem with another project-based class, “Change the World,” in which students carry out a political or social work project under the guidance of a defendant Kathryn Bass and with input from other students.

After Plaintiffs objected in early September to the coercive and ideological nature of the “Sociology of Change” class, DPAC Principal Adam Johnson informed Gabrielle Clark that the theoretical basis of the revamped “Sociology of Change” course is known as “intersectionality,” and is inspired by political activist, academic and “Critical Race Theory” proponent Kimberlé Crenshaw, who is featured prominently in the course materials attached hereto. Defendants would later deny in a meeting with Plaintiff Gabrielle Clark that the class was infused with “Critical Race Theory.” Plaintiff William Clark’s first graded assignment for the class worth 10pts required him to reveal his racial, sexual, gender, sexual
orientation, disabilities and religious identities. Plaintiff William Clark was required to submit his race, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities “if any” in a homework assignment due by September 21 and which was “graded for completion” for a total of 20pts. Upon information and belief such assignments continued at least until October of this year.

“Hello my wonderful social justice warriors!” Defendant Kathryn Bass greeted William Clark and his class on or about September 8th of this year. Ms. Bass then requested each student to “label and identify” their gender, racial and religious identities as part of “an independent reflection” exercise which was graded. The next step was to determine if “that part of your identity have privilege or oppression attached to it.” Privilege was defined as “the inherent belief in the inferiority of the oppressed group.” The teacher’s material stated who qualified as oppressors, and who in virtue of their gender and race harbored “inherent belief in the inferiority” of others. As a result, Kathryn Bass explicitly assigned moral attributes to pupils based on their race, gender, sexual orientation and religion. William Clark felt that if he had submitted to the terms of this exercise, he would have been in effect adopting and making public affirmations about his racial, sexual, gender identities and religious background that he believed to be false and which violated his moral convictions. He also did not wish to profess his identities on command in a non-private setting.

A “vocab reminder” visual graphic from the same class instructed participants that “oppression” is “malicious or unjust treatment or exercise of power.” The lesson categorized certain racial and religious identities as inherently “oppressive,” singling these identities out in bold text, and instructed pupils including William Clark who fell into these categories to accept the label “oppressor” regardless of whether they disagreed with the pejorative characterization of their heritage, convictions and identities. The familial, racial, sexual, and religious identities that were officially singled out and characterized as “oppressive” were predetermined by Defendants’ class material from the outset, highlighted as such in bold text, antecedent to any discussion between student and teacher. Plaintiff William Clark could not bring himself to accept or affirm these labels, which he conscientiously believed were calumny against his self-identity and his family. What William Clark refused to do was to submit to racial, sexual, and religious labeling exercises carried out in a non-private setting which was coercive in its very nature and trafficked in intimate personal matters that are outside the legitimate scope of state-funded and controlled public education.

After Defendant Kathryn Bass directed William Clark and his fellows to “label and identify” their various identities, and place them in the designated “oppressive” categories, the next step was to “breakout” into groups to discuss with other pupils, asking and answering accusatory personal questions, including “Were you surprised with the amount of privilege or oppression that you have attached to your identities” and “How did this activity make you feel.” Those students who did not “feel comfortable or safe enough to do so,” presumably those whose identities were oppressive, were permitted to refrain from divulging the information to other students in their group, Defendant Kathryn. Bass assured them.

However, discomfort was not relieved by Kathryn Bass’ offered dispensation, according to William Clark. The pre-set structure of the class ensured that any pupil of a certain perceived race, gender or sex who declined to participate only highlighted his status as an “oppressor” who harbored inherent “privilege.” Pupils remained visible to one another in the classes that were virtual, defendant Kimberly Wall said, their faces stacked around the teacher “like the opening credits of the Brady Bunch,” as Ms. Wall would later describe it to Plaintiffs. Defendants’ class presentation also stated that denial of these identity characterizations amounts to unjust privilege “expressed as denial.” Defendants’ class exercises forced upon William Clark a deliberately designed, psychologically abusive dilemma: participate in the exercise in violation of his conscience and be branded with a pejorative label; or conscientiously refrain from participation, and suffer isolation from his classmates and be maligned by the same labeling regardless.

The official, derogatory labeling included in the DPPS/DPAC curriculum programming was not only based upon invidious racial distinctions, but also upon the basis of religious, sexual, and gender discrimination. In addition to the “white” racial identity, Defendants singled and assigned inherent moral attributes to pupils who fell into male, heterosexual gender/sex identities and Christian religious categories, calling them intrinsically oppressive, the materials defining “oppression” as “malicious or unjust” and “wrong.” Plaintiff William Clark was compelled to participate in public professions of his racial, religious, sexual, and gender identities, and would be labeled as an “oppressor” on these bases by Defendants. Plaintiff William Clark was obliged to profess himself complicit in “internalized privilege [which] includes acceptance of a belief in the inherent inferiority of the [corresponding] oppressed group” as well as supporting “the inherent superiority or normalcy of one’s own privileged group.” As a male, William Clark’s identities were “malicious and unjust” and “wrong” whether or not he was conscious of these alleged facts, and whether or not he was personally responsible for any acts or omissions. By professing his sexuality at the teacher’s command, William Clark would in effect be submitting to these derogatory labels. William Clark and his fellow students were instructed that any denial of these characterizations itself amounts to unjust privilege “expressed as denial.” Plaintiff William Clark’s female teacher instructed him that only members of the male sex were capable of committing “real life interpersonal oppression”, because “interpersonal sexism is what men to do women”. This was not descriptive instruction, but compulsory, graded normative exercises in which Plaintiff William Clark was required to participate.

William Clark and his mixed-race family belong to many of the groups characterized as “oppressive” and “wrong” by Defendants. The assignment of these derogatory labels based upon racial, sexual, gender and religious upbringing created a hostile environment for Plaintiff William Clark, who for instance was raised according to Judeo-Christian precepts and traditions by his mother. Defendants’ curriculum programming and Kathryn Bass’ actions labeled Christianity as an example of an oppressive ideology and institution against which students should “fight back” and “unlearn.” The material makes explicit the “unlearning” is to take place in class, at the direction of the teacher. In fact, one slide that William Clark was exposed to states “We have a lot of unlearning to do.” Defendants’ exercises and class programming was normative, not descriptive, and aimed to foment in pupils an inward conversion regarding personal moral and spiritual convictions they brought with them to the classroom from their personal experiences and families.

Professing one’s racial, sexual and religious identities on command, and exposing those professions to the scrutiny of others, was a regular and official practice of the DPPS/DPAC “Sociology of Change” curriculum programming, which William Clark was required to perform repeatedly, and not just in the beginning classes. The terms of this practice were authored by DPPS, as DPPAC and DPPS Defendants informed Plaintiffs in a mid-November meeting. “On the Google Doc write down your individual identity,” Defendant Kathryn Bass directed Plaintiff William Clark and his classmates in one virtual online session. “Fill out your identities again,” she reiterated. Individual identities to be written
down and submitted for grading included: Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, Gender, Socioeconomic Status, Disabilities, Religion, Age, Language.

The above assignment was graded and the assignment sheet included an asterisked caveat at the end: “This list is private! No one else will see it.” The assurance proved to be false, however, because the entry of identities was required to be submitted to the teacher, which she could see and muse over; and although students like Plaintiff William Clark did not know it, by entering their intimate personal information onto the student assignment Google Doc database, it immediately became visible to all DPAC teachers and administrators and remains so to this day, in contravention of the written privacy assurance Defendants gave to Plaintiff William Clark and his fellow students, as Plaintiffs and counsel were later informed by Defendants in a mid-November meeting. Defendants also conceded to Plaintiffs and counsel in a mid-November meeting that school supervisors including Defendant Adam Johnson could and would “tune in” to the classroom sessions unbeknownst to students like Plaintiff William Clark, who were at the time in acute discomfort as their gender, race, disabilities “if any”, and sex were being confessed, interrogated, and labeled on Zoom.

DPAC and DPPS Defendants including Kimberly Wall conceded in meetings with Plaintiffs in mid-November and again in early December with counsel that required exercises and graded homework assignments involving identity confessions as described above indeed occurred. Defendants said in the mid-November meeting that revealing identities was “encouraged.” Defendants including Kimberly Wall refused to assure Plaintiffs that graded identity confession assignments or in class exercises would not occur again in future “Sociology of Change” and “Change the World” classes that William Clark is required to attend for graduation. Defendants’ current position by counsel is that they will not expunge the failing grade they gave plaintiff William Clark or allow him to take an alternative class but that he may partially repair his grade for last trimester’s “Sociology of Change” class if he completes all the assignments, which would still not be full credit.

With green eyes and blondish hair, Plaintiff William Clark is generally regarded as white by his peers, and despite having a black mother, is so light skinned that he is usually presumed “white” by all others. He is the only apparent white boy in his class, in fact, and is regularly reminded of it. Still, the DPPS/DPAC “Sociology of Change” curriculum programming which William Clark had to submit to says not to worry: [Classroom slides pitting “dominant group” against “oppressed group”]

The tendentious terms in which DPPS/DPAC’s mandatory “Sociology of Change” class was presented to Plaintiff William Clark and his classmates made rational classroom discussion virtually impossible, thus ensuring a hostile educational environment. Because Defendants’ programming predesignated guilt and innocence to individuals for racial, sexual, and gender injustice in the very terminology, it forced pupils to adopt these premises at the outset, frustrating good-faith deliberation between students and teacher.

It is therefore predictable that one of Plaintiff William Clark’s first “Sociology of Change” sessions at DPAC on or about September 10, 2020 erupted into racially charged tumult, and teacher Kathryn Bass terminated discussion when students, including William Clark, objected to her derogatory, race-based labeling. Her actions both intimidated him from speaking out in class further and was an official endorsement of an ideology he could not in conscience affirm. This class session was conducted in a virtual online Zoom forum, and Plaintiff Gabrielle Clark immediately complained abouts its disorder and intimidation to Defendant Adam Johnson, principal of DPAC. In a meeting with Plaintiffs DPPS and DPAC Defendants would neither confirm nor deny whether they generated a report regarding the incident. This initial online incident and sitting through classes described above traumatized William Clark, discouraged and chilled his speech, and he did not want to participate further. His mother also did not want him to participate further, and told Defendants repeatedly, complaining specifically of the coercive identity revelations and the subsequent hostile environment Defendants were fostering.

Defendants informed Plaintiff William Clark that he must return to and complete the “Sociology of Change” class, or he would not be permitted to graduate from high school. Plaintiffs spoke with school officials on multiple occasions from September to the present to express their conscientious objection to the programming of the class and assert their rights to abstain from participating in a class that was coercive, invasive and discriminatory. But the response from increasingly higher levels DPAC and DPPS officials was the same: don’t participate, don’t graduate.

There is much more to this suit, which I encourage K12 teachers and administrators to read in full and then be certain NOT to emulate.

Before this suit, I had never heard of such foolishness happening in the name of teaching sociological awareness. By the way, the New York lawyer connected to this case is shifting his attention from personal injury to “personal injury and civil rights.” He is counting on the likes of this DPPS stupidity occurring repeatedly in schools nationwide and cashing in on it in the process. Don’t set yourselves up to become defendants in any of his potential, future litigation.

After Gabrielle and William Clark filed their suit against DPPS, DPPS expunged William Clark’s failing grade in Sociology of Change and permitted him to opt out of the course. The suit is still pending.


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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter @deutsch29blog

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ Full Statement in Declining UNC Chapel Hill’s Begrudgingly-Extended Tenure Offer

In May 2021, the news broke that Pulitzer-Prize winnder, Nikole Hannah-Jones, had been denied tenure at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill.

Hannah-Jones tried to keep the issue (and her associated disappointment from this February 2021 UNC-Chapel Hill board decision, or non-decision) quiet, but the news broke months later.

After much unwanted publicity and profound public pressure, the UNC-Chapel Hill board less-than-half-heartedly extended a tenure offer to Hannah-Jones.

Hannah-Jones refused to offer, instead accepting a position at Howard University.

To understand the nuances of Hannah-Jones’ awful experience, read her full statement, released on July 06, 2021:

“I have loved the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since I was a child watching Tar Heels basketball on television. Two decades ago, in 2001, I learned that not only had I been accepted into the master’s program at the journalism school at UNC, but that I had received a full-tuition Park Fellowship. I cried from joy. I could not believe how lucky I was to get the chance to learn journalism at a place I had so long revered.

“For the next two years, I practically lived in Carroll Hall, spending more time there than anywhere else, even my apartment. I passed hours and hours in that building, studying, working at the Park Library, soaking in the skills of journalism — as well as its ethics and mandates — from the many generous instructors, sitting in the offices of professors — such as Chuck Stone and Harry Amana — who enthralled me with their stories and guided my steps. I met one of my best friends in the master’s program, and she became my daughter’s godmother.

“UNC took a woman with ambition but no practical journalism training and provided the foundation for all that I would become. And through the years, Carolina has been so good to me; inviting me to give the journalism school’s commencement address in 2017; honoring me with the Young Alumni Award that same year and the Distinguished Alumna Award in 2019; and last year, inducting me into the N.C. Media Hall of Fame.

“I have tried to repay the university by mentoring and supporting students through the organization I co-founded — the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting — and by regularly visiting the campus to give talks and meet with students. And so, a few years ago when Dean Susan King first raised the possibility of my coming to teach at the university, I was deeply honored. As a full-time journalist at The New York Times who had no intention of leaving the profession, I told her I could not consider it.

“But those who know Dean King, know this woman is relentlessly persuasive and never takes her eyes off the long game. Last year, she came to me with the idea of the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Reporting. Our country was undergoing a racial reckoning, and she talked about the moment we are in and how important it was for the upcoming generation of journalists to have the knowledge, training, historical understanding, and depth of reporting to cover the changing country and its challenges. She told me that Carolina was undergoing a racial reckoning of its own, that its leadership was committed to real change, and that she felt I could play an important role in this effort.

“I knew it would be a heavy load to continue my work as an investigative reporter and take on teaching, but I could not dismiss the security and academic freedom of tenure that accompanied the Knight Chair at Carolina and the opportunity to return to serve my alma mater. After giving her offer a lot of thought, the possibility of coming back to Carolina and formalizing the mentoring and teaching I have been doing for years proved too powerful for me to deny. I said yes, and then, like every other person who has been named a Knight Chair at Carolina, I began the rigorous tenure process.

“As part of the months-long tenure process, I had to write a teaching statement, a creative statement and a service statement. I had to teach a class while being observed by faculty. Dean King solicited letters to assess my portfolio of work and professional accomplishments from several academic experts in the field of journalism whom I did not personally know. I presented to the journalism faculty. Following these steps, my tenure was put to vote by all the full professors of the journalism school, who were overwhelmingly in support.

“My tenure package was then submitted to the university’s Promotion and Tenure committee, which also overwhelmingly approved my application for tenure. My tenure package was then to be presented for a vote by the Board of Trustees in November so that I could start teaching at the university in January 2021. The day of the Trustees meeting, we waited for word, but heard nothing. The next day, we learned that my tenure application had been pulled but received no explanation as to why. The same thing happened again in January. Both the university’s Chancellor and its Provost refused to fully explain why my tenure package had failed twice to come to a vote or exactly what transpired. The rest of this story has been well documented in the press.

“Being asked to return to teach at Carolina had felt like a homecoming; it felt like another way to give back to the institution that had given so much to me. And now I was being told that the Board of Trustees would not vote on my tenure and that the only way for me to come teach in the fall would be for me to sign a five-year contract under which I could be considered for tenure at a later, unspecified date. By that time, I had invested months in the process. I had secured an apartment in North Carolina so that I would be ready to teach that January. My editors at The New York Times had already supplied quotes for the press release of the big announcement.

“I did not want to face the humiliation of letting everyone know that I would be the first Knight Chair at the university to be denied tenure. I did not want to wage a fight with my alma mater or bring to the school and to my future colleagues the political firestorm that has dogged me since The 1619 Project published. So, crushed, I signed the five-year contract in February, and I did not say a word about it publicly.

“But some of those who had lobbied against me were not satisfied to simply ensure I did not receive tenure. When the announcement of my hire as the Knight Chair came out at the end of April, writers from a North Carolina conservative think tank called the James G. Martin Center railed against the university for subverting the board’s tenure denial and hiring me anyway. The think tank had formerly been named after Art Pope, an influential conservative activist who now serves on the UNC Board of Governors, who had helped birth the center. The article questioned how I had been hired without the Board of Trustees approval, and its writer argued that, because the university hired me anyway after the board stymied my tenure, the Board of Governors “should amend system policies to require every faculty hire to be vetted by each school’s board of trustees.” And yet, when that article was published, it had not been made public that I had been hired without the board approving my tenure or my hire. Even faculty at the journalism school were not aware that I had not been considered for tenure and would not learn this until some days later.

“Nine days after the James G. Martin Center published this piece, reporter Joe Killian at N.C. Policy Watch broke the story that, because of political interference and pressure by conservatives, I had been denied consideration for tenure and instead offered a five-year contract. The story about the denial of consideration went viral, and I was dragged into the very thing that I had tried to avoid as the actions of the Board of Trustees became a national scandal.

“These last few weeks have been very dark. To be treated so shabbily by my alma mater, by a university that has given me so much and which I only sought to give back to, has been deeply painful.

“The only bright light has been all of the people who spoke up and fought back against the dangerous attack on academic freedom that sought to punish me for the nature of my work, attacks that Black and marginalized faculty face all across the country.

  • Dean Susan King who, in a vacuum of leadership, has exhibited courage, integrity, honesty, and a refusal to be bullied even if it cost her. This is why I wanted to come work under her leadership.
  • My colleagues across the country who spoke up with vigor and outrage and to whom I am so very grateful.
  • The faculty at the School of Journalism and Media and across campus who spoke truth to power and stood up not just for me, but for the academic integrity of North Carolina’s flagship university.
  • The Carolina alumni who sent letters, made calls, and applied public pressure to the Board of Trustees to maintain the integrity of the process and the university.
  • The advocates, including members of the state legislature and the local NAACP branches.
  • All the universities that reached out to offer me a home, where, as one dean of journalism put it, I would be given “tenure and
  • My amazing legal team: the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Levy Ratner PC and Ferguson, Chambers and Sumpter, P.A., for your guidance and for providing me with the best representation in the country.
  • The New York Times, where I will continue to work as a magazine staff writer.
  • And most of all, the students at Carolina, who protested and fought to hold the Board of Trustees accountable, even as you were treated with disrespect by the institution charged with serving you.

“I cannot adequately express my gratitude to you all. But I will not be joining the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a professor.

“I cannot imagine working at and advancing a school named for a man who lobbied against me, who used his wealth to influence the hires and ideology of the journalism school, who ignored my 20 years of journalism experience, all of my credentials, all of my work, because he believed that a project that centered Black Americans equaled the denigration of white Americans. Nor can I work at an institution whose leadership permitted this conduct and has done nothing to disavow it.

“How could I believe I’d be able to exert academic freedom with the school’s largest donor so willing to disparage me publicly and attempt to pull the strings behind the scenes? Why would I want to teach at a university whose top leadership chose to remain silent, to refuse transparency, to fail to publicly advocate that I be treated like every other Knight Chair before me? Or for a university overseen by a board that would so callously put politics over what is best for the university that we all love? These times demand courage, and those who have held the most power in this situation have exhibited the least of it.

“The Board of Trustees wanted to send a message to me and others like me, and it did. I always tell college students and journalists who are worried that they will face discrimination, who fear that they will be judged not by their work but for who they are or what they choose to write about, that they can only worry about that which is in their own control: their own excellence. I tell them all they can do is work as hard as possible to make themselves undeniable. And yet, we have all seen that you can do everything to make yourself undeniable, and those in power can change the rules and attempt to deny you anyway.

“Since the second grade when I began being bused into white schools, I have been fighting against people who did not think a Black girl like me belonged, people who tried to control what I did, how I spoke, how I looked, the work I produced.

“I have never asked for special treatment. I did not seek it here. All I asked was to be judged by my credentials and treated fairly and equally.

“I do not come from a wealthy and connected family. I did not arrive at Carolina with the understanding that no matter how I performed, I would have a job and prominent position guaranteed. My dad drove a bus and my mom was a probation officer. I got into Carolina on my own merits. I scraped to secure internships at small papers like High Point Enterprise. I got my first job covering schools for the Chapel Hill News. At age 27, when a certain wealthy donor was inheriting the publishing gig from his family paper, I was interning at The News & Observer while working a second job as a mattress salesperson to make ends meet.

“I worked my way up from newspaper to newspaper, and have worked as a journalist for 20 years, traveling from North Carolina to Oregon to New York City before landing at The New York Times. In 2016, I co-founded a journalist organization to help others succeed in the field of investigative reporting. That organization, the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, is housed at the University of North Carolina. I did not have $25 million to give, but I brought what resources I had, not to force my beliefs about journalism on anyone, but to help train eager journalists in the tools of investigative reporting and the skills necessary to cover a deeply divided and unequal multiracial democracy.

“Every Knight Chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since the 1980s has entered that position as a full professor with tenure. And yet, the vote on my tenure had to be forced by weeks of protests, scathing letters of reprimand, the threat of legal action and my refusal to start July 1 without it. Even then, the Board of Trustees had to be led to this vote by its youngest member, Lamar Richards, the student body president, who publicly demanded the special meeting. The board then chose to wait to vote until the last possible day at the last possible moment.

“If I had any doubts about whether I should come to UNC or not, watching the proceedings affirmed my decision.

“I watched as student protesters, who for weeks had been expressing their pain and hurt, were forced to wait for more than 20 minutes before they were let into the meeting room. I watched as not a single official in the room bothered to explain that the meeting they had advertised as a special meeting that would be livestreamed would in fact be held in closed session because that is the rule. I watched as their response to the shock, hurt and outrage of students, who thought they’d come to a public hearing, was to remain silent when any adult in the room could have calmly explained what was happening.

“I watched as the Chancellor and other officials looked down and did nothing as law enforcement shoved, pushed, and pummeled the students they are supposed to serve. I watched as student protesters were forced outside in the heat to wait for nearly two hours as the board argued over my tenure. And then I watched as one of the trustees came out and falsely claimed that June 28 had been the first time the board had ever had the opportunity to review my application, and that it was the board that had been treated unfairly in this situation.

“To this day, no one has ever explained to me why my vote did not occur in November or January, and no one has requested the additional information that a member of the Board of Trustees claimed he was seeking when they refused to take up my tenure. The university’s leadership continues to be dishonest about what happened and patently refuses to acknowledge the truth, to offer any explanation, to own what they did and what they tried to do. Once again, when leadership had the opportunity to stand up, it did not.

“At some point when you have proven yourself and fought your way into institutions that were not built for you, when you’ve proven you can compete and excel at the highest level, you have to decide that you are done forcing yourself in.

“I fought this battle because I know that all across this country Black faculty, and faculty from other marginalized groups, are having their opportunities stifled, and that if political appointees could successfully stop my tenure, then they would only be emboldened to do it to others who do not have my platform. I had to stand up. And, I won the battle for tenure.

“But I also get to decide what battles I continue to fight. And I have decided that instead of fighting to prove I belong at an institution that until 1955 prohibited Black Americans from attending, I am instead going to work in the legacy of a university not built by the enslaved but for those who once were. For too long, Black Americans have been taught that success is defined by gaining entry to and succeeding in historically white institutions. I have done that, and now I am honored and grateful to join the long legacy of Black Americans who have defined success by working to build up their own.

“I will be taking a position as the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at Howard University, founded in 1867 to serve the formerly enslaved and their descendants. There, I will be creating a new initiative aimed at training aspiring journalists to cover the crisis of our democracy and bolstering journalism programs at historically Black colleges and universities across the country. I have already helped secure $15 million for this effort, called the Center for Journalism and Democracy, with the generous grants from the Ford, Knight, and MacArthur foundations, and have set a goal of raising $25 million. In the storied tradition of the Black press, the Center for Journalism and Democracy will help produce journalists capable of accurately and urgently covering the perilous challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor, and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism.

“Historically Black colleges and universities have long punched above their weight, producing a disproportionate number of Black professionals while working with disproportionately low resources. It is my great honor to help usher to this storied institution these significant resources that will help support the illustrious, hardworking, and innovative faculty at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and the brilliant students it draws. Thank you, President Wayne Frederick and Dean Gracie Lawson-Borders, for always treating me with dignity and respect, and for offering me a home where I can do my work unimpeded.

“Many people, all with the best of intentions, have said that if I walk away from UNC, I will have let those who opposed me win. But I do not want to win someone else’s game. It is not my job to heal this university, to force the reforms necessary to ensure the Board of Trustees reflects the actual population of the school and the state, or to ensure that the university leadership lives up to the promises it made to reckon with its legacy of racism and injustice.

“For too long, powerful people have expected the people they have mistreated and marginalized to sacrifice themselves to make things whole. The burden of working for racial justice is laid on the very people bearing the brunt of the injustice, and not the powerful people who maintain it. I say to you: I refuse.

“In the case of my tenure, the university has, begrudgingly, done the absolute minimum. In a split vote, it did what it was supposed to have done 7 months ago and, in doing so, many believe the university has resolved the issue. It has not.

“If the leaders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sincerely wish to redeem themselves, to live up to the university’s status as the people’s university, I would humbly suggest they do the following, at a minimum:

  • Apologize publicly and privately to the student protesters treated so disrespectfully at the Board of Trustees meeting last week, and then dedicate themselves to addressing the demands issued by the Black Student Movement.
  • Agree to address the demands issued by the Carolina Black Caucus more than two years ago. To be effective, these efforts must include an actual commitment, with targets, for recruiting, supporting, and retaining Black faculty. While I provided an easy case for many to rally around, had I come, I would have been just the second tenured Black woman professor in the 70-year history of the UNC journalism school, and I would have been its first and only Black woman full professor. Black women account for just 1.9 percent of tenured faculty at UNC, and Black professors together account for just 5 percent in a state that is 22 percent Black and at a university where the student body is 11 percent Black. These issues predated my tenure and cannot be laid at the foot of a politically appointed board, since the tenure hopes of most Black professors are quashed before they even reach the Board of Trustees.
  • Advocate to change the role that the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors have over faculty governance and commit to respecting faculty governance and academic freedom at this institution. This requires a change to the way the boards are appointed so that they actually reflect the demographics of the state and the student body, rather than the whims of political power.
  • Provide transparency around the tenure debacle that led us here. To date, neither myself, Dean King, my legal counsel, nor the public, have ever been told directly by the university why my tenure was not voted on in November, in January, or at any time before the forced vote in June. Public records requests by both journalists and residents have gone unfulfilled. This is unacceptable for a public university. University officials cannot rebuild trust without first providing truth and transparency in a public accounting of what went wrong and why.

“To Dean King, you are a champion for women journalists, a trailblazer in your own right. We did not ask for this fight, but we were determined to see it to victory. It would have been an honor to work for you.

“To the UNC faculty, especially the consummate professionals in the journalism school, I so looked forward to being your colleague and to learning from you and working with you. You welcomed me from the start. Our students are lucky to learn from you each day, and the university is lucky to have you.

“To the students, I am deeply sorry that I will not have the privilege of teaching you and learning from you. You are brave and full of grace, and I am so very proud of you all. My commitment to you has not wavered, I just will continue to do it as I have in the past, as an alum of the school and not faculty. I hope that you will consider Howard or another HBCU if you ever seek a new educational home, but whatever you do, I know you will continue to fight for justice.

“I will always be a Tar Heel. I remain grateful for all the university has given me and am committed to a lifetime of paying it forward. And I am so excited to now call myself a Bison as well and join the Howard family of which I have long desired to belong.”

My best to Hannah-Jones as she begins her tenure at faculty of Howard University.

To the board at UNC-Chapel Hill:

Really?

Nikole Hannah-Jones

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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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July 4th and Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

On this July 4th, I went to a hospice facility to visit my favorite teacher from my undergraduate at LSU.

She has early-onset Alzheimer’s. Tomorrow is her 70th birthday.

I first wrote about her a couple of years ago on this blog. I knew something was wrong, but I did not realize she had Alheimers until 2018 when I went to visit her and she forgot to tell me that she had moved.

I was in her Intro to Fiction class in my sophomore year (1986-87). It was the only course for which she was my instructor, but for my remaining time at LSU, I would occasionally stop by her office and chat with her. My home life was a mess and my living situation uncertain during holidays and breaks. I never told her so, but stopping by just to chat was a stabilizing experience for me.

Once I left LSU, many years passed with my seeing her only a handful of times for lunch here and there, and once for an overnight visit to her home. During my time living away from Louisiana (Georgia, Colorado, Indiana; 1993-2007), I was not in touch.

When I published my first book in 2014, I sent her a note to let her know. She wrote back, which I now realize may have been a feat since the Alzheimers might have already been beginning to manifest itself.

By late 2016, following the 100-year flood in Baton Rouge, I called her to see how she was. I was actually in her driveway, and her home was boarded up. She said she was in town staying with her husband’s family, but she could not give me directions to where she was. That should have been a clue.

I later learned from her husband that they had been evacuated by boat from the second story of their house at 10:30 p.m., awakened by a police bullhorn because the lower level of their home had already taken on water while they were sleeping.

I did not see her until she was back in her newly-restored home, in mid-2017. She was reluctant to leave her home, and I noticed that she exhibited short-term memory issues. But she was happy to see me, and she knew who I was.

Over the next few years, I saw her about once per year, and the memory issues were becoming more pronounced.

Her husband was happy for my visits. In July 2020, when I last came to visit my instructor on her birthday, her husband confided that at night, she cried, asking him to divorce her because she knew she was declining.

In May 2021, I received a voicemail during school hours. When I saw it was from my instructor’s husband, my heart froze. I thought he was calling to tell me my instructor had died.

Instead, he was calling her friends to update us on her situation. She had stopped bathing and refused to change her clothes. She had also taken to wandering off. He placed her in an inpatient facility, but she became aggressive, pulling hair and hitting those trying to help her. She finally ended up in a rehab center so that doctors could establish a drug regimen to help control the aggressiveness in order to make transfer to an inpatient care facility possible.

In June 2021, he called again, this time to say that her aggression had been managed enough for her to be placed in a hospice facility (a house suitable for about a dozen patients), and that she could have visitors.

I went to see her the next day. I reminded her of who I was and told her several times during our 20-minute visit that I love her. Upon my leaving, she motioned for me to come closer to her (she is in a chair that prevents her from wandering off), and I did so, knowing that the aggression of hair-pulling and hitting could have been the result, but it was not. Instead, she hugged me with both arms and kissed my cheek.

Today, she did not know who I was, and she was surprised to hear that I had been her student at LSU.

I told her that today was July 4th, and I asked her if she knew wht July 5th was.

I told her that July 5th was her birthday– her 70th birthday– that she was born in 1951, and since it is 2021, that makes her 70 years old tomorrow.

She listened to me as one might listen when the solution to a mystery is finally revealed and the hearer is grateful for the news.

“Thank you for telling me that.” Spoken so frankly.

At the end of our visit, I said, “I’m going to leave now,” and asked, “Can I hug you?”

She responded, “Of course.”

After we hugged, as I was turning to go, she quietly asked, “Can I come with you?”

My heart was in my throat.

How I wish you could, my dear, dear teacher.

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