Disputes Over US School Anti-Racism Policies Move to Courts

Published May 12th, 2022 - 06:12 GMT
Disputes Over US School Anti-Racism Policies Move to Courts
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As school districts and state legislators around the country debate the role of racism in classroom lessons -- with many objecting to so-called "critical race theory" -- some disputes are playing out in court.

School anti-racism policies and history lessons that delve into systemic racism are colliding with parents' efforts to control their children's education and accusations that the policies themselves are discriminatory.

In Virginia, a judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which parents sought to block schools from teaching lessons they viewed as efforts to indoctrinate students in critical race theory, but the legal battle continues

Five families sued the Albemarle County Public Schools alleging its anti-racism policy and middle school curriculum treat students differently based on their race and religion -- a violation of their constitutional rights. In addition, the policy violates parents' rights to control the upbringing and education of their children, according to the suit.

Albemarle County Circuit Judge Claude Worrell rejected the argument that the children had been harmed and announced after an April 22 hearing that he was dismissing the suit. A written ruling is pending.

Phil Giaramita, the schools' strategic communications officer, said in a press release that the ruling supports the policy. The county school board has said critical race theory has not been added to the curriculum and there are no plans to do so.

"We obviously were pleased that the court agreed with our position that plaintiffs failed to show concrete harm to students from the policy's implementation," Giaramita said. "As the judge noted, there was no justiciable question for the court to decide, meaning there were no claims that could be decided based upon legal principles."

After the hearing, David Cortman, senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based nonprofit that represents the nine parents and eight children in the suit, said the policy is racially discriminatory.

"This is disappointing, but the case is not over," Cortman said in a statement. "Every student deserves to be treated equally under the law, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion. Public schools cannot attack or demean students based on these, or any other, characteristics. We look forward to continuing to represent these parents and students on appeal."

The suit, which was filed in December, asked for an order either stopping instruction that constitutes unlawful discrimination or permitting parents to opt their children out of the lessons without penalty. It also requested compensatory damages, including the cost of alternative education for their children incurred by some of the parents.

The Albemarle County School Board, Superintendent Matthew Haas and Assistant Superintendent Bernard Hairston were named as defendants.

"The policy purports to expose and silence racism," the suit says. "Instead, it perpetuates that evil. Grounded in an ideology (sometimes called "critical race theory," "critical theory," or "critical pedagogy") that views everyone and everything through a racial lens, the policy classifies students based on racial groups and identifies all people as either perpetually privileged oppressors or perpetually victimized members of the oppressed, denying agency to both. It imputes 'racism' exclusively to one racial group (Whites), assumes that racism infects all social institutions and demands that White people become 'anti-racists' working to dismantle those institutions."


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