A small, but growing number of Black educators have recently been driven out of their positions thanks to backlash from parents over a push for diversity and equity, NBC News reports.
Conservative activists are pushing the false idea that all discussions about race in public schools fall under the umbrella of Critical Race Theory (CRT), which is an academic framework typically reserved for graduate courses that explores the relationship between race, racism and power. The fear of CRT has grown so strong that 22 states so far have proposed bills that limit how schools can approach teaching race and racism.
Rydell Harrison, southwestern Connecticut’s first Black school superintendent, resigned from his job in June after parents started to complain that he was an “activist” and that the district’s newly implemented diversity efforts represented Harrison’s “agenda.”
“In education, we have responded to opposition with truth and facts and being able to say, ‘Yeah, I can see why that’d be a concern, but this is what is really happening.’ In most cases that works for us,” Harrison told NBC News. “But when facts are no longer part of the discussion, our tools to reframe the conversation and get people back on board are limited.”
Administrators and teachers across the country have said that they have been pushed out of their jobs over a strong resistance—including threats of violence in some cases— to discussions of race in the classroom. Some teachers have “opted to leave public schools entirely, while others are fighting to save their career. The result in these districts is what educators and experts describe as a brain drain of those who are most committed to fighting racism in schools,” according to NBC News.
This severe backlash against diversity and equity is only going to make it harder to find educators willing to do this important work, according to Kumar Rashad, a Louisville, Kentucky, math teacher and local teachers union leader. “This is going to cause an exodus among an already scarce recruiting field in education,” he told NBC News. “People aren’t entering the field as much as they were, and now we have this to chase them away.”
Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America, told NBC News that he finds it “highly alarming” that educators are being pushed out of their jobs and fearing for their lives over discussions about race. “There is great risk that a creeping censoriousness will overtake our public schools, purging them of a diversity of teachers and talent and winnowing the critical lenses through which young people should be encouraged to view history and society,” he said.