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Democracy Prep’s CRT-Typed Festival of Idiocy

July 9, 2021

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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7 Comments
  1. Lance Grant permalink

    After reading your article on CRT I don’t know where you stand on the issue. Is it the CRT that you disagree with or the implementation of CRT exercises through this particular school?

    • Both. This is the first instance I know of where CRT is explicitly a part of curriculum, and making students disclose personal info in some twisted effort to “rehab” students is ignorant at best.

      I support teaching history accurately. If one group exploited another, that truth should be included information.

  2. Jon permalink

    Based on what I’ve learned about CRT, what happened at this school is not a legitimate example of what CRT is. Instead, it looks a whole, huge lot like a false flag situation/curriculum waiting around for the inevitable lawsuit. All of what is described correlates quite strongly with the lies that are being spread about what CRT is and how and where it is being taught. The requirement to divulge personal information and that the student was subsequently pilloried for it is a much too perfect fit with the disinformation campaign against CRT which in reality has nothing to do with inflicting shame on or attributing guilt to individuals. I’m not surprised that this happened at a charter school, and there is a small chance that this may be a part of charter/voucher infighting within the “school choice” movement. I see that as only a structural possibility right now, only because it could easily be made to serve that purpose. Here is the best resource I’ve found on the origins and motivations of the fight against CRT. https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-inquiry/how-a-conservative-activist-invented-the-conflict-over-critical-race-theory?fbclid=IwAR05e6kxQnqPiBwNi_B5UpHG20evXoj7duCcw74HYNcxNa5GIL6P3dWaCiQ

  3. LisaM permalink

    I think this is going on in many school districts across the country in the form of “diversity and equity” training/curriculum. The problem is that there are a few teachers/administrators taking it too far and pushing towards the fringes of ideology to make social justice warriors for a certain cause (Social engineering?). This is wrong and this is what parents are complaining about (I’m living my own personal hell with this as my now 19yo changed dramatically the middle of 11th grade). I am a left leaning, Independent and I have issues with “the way” this is being pushed on teens/tweens because teens aren’t fully capable of making the best decisions or fully capable of discerning fact from fiction ( lack of executive functioning skills?). I believe in teaching accurate and age appropriate history and social studies and allowing for discussion on the topics. Parents are rightly reacting to something that isn’t quite “right” going on in schools….the problem is that many are letting FOX news stoke the fire inside. It’s good to be open-minded, but you can’t let your brains fall out in the process.

  4. Joshua Diamant permalink

    The problem here is not that the course was grounded in critical race theory, but that it sought to accomplish its aims through shame, coercion, and punishment. Not surprising coming from one of the big national charter chains. Let’s not hand free ammunition to those who would have us whitewash history in schools.

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