Friday, August 27, 2021

NC: Public School Teacher Witch Hunt Report Released

Searching for something to add momentum for their proposed teacher gag law, North Carolina Republicans rallied behind Lt. Governor Mark Robinson last March when he announced the Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students (FACTS--get it?) task force, with the stated purposes of 

* assist holding local and county-level education officials accountable for what occurs in their schools

* provide a safe and secure method for right wing teachers to tattle on their co-workers (I'm paraphrasing a bit)

* provide a state-wider pipeline for any parents who also want to report subversive activity in schools

* provide "underrepresented parents and students"--by which they appear to mean put-upon conservatives--a chance to turn in subversives

* assist parents in navigating bureaucracy of school system

There was a form to submit any damn thing that burnt your toast. And at least 580 people did. I know that because the task force released a report earlier this week, and it includes all of the reported items. Let me tell you about it.

The short answer is that it is just as awful as you think. For one thing, the 580 items have the reporter identity and contact information redacted. Names of teachers in the items? Those are still there. We'll get into it ion greater detail in a second.

The Task Force

So who was on this witch hunting panel, this unironic tribute to McCarthyism?

We've got a couple of public school board members. Melissa Oakley (philanthropist, independent child advocate, Onslow County BOE). Melissa Merrell (Union County BOE chair, with history of harassing teachers). Plus a county commissioner- Rick Watkins (also an assistant professor and educational consultant). We've got a couple of teachers. Jennifer Rosa (Wake County, and not much of an online footprint) and Jennifer Adcock (Brunswick County schools, 16 years teacher, also not very on line).

We've got Judy Henlon, president of Classroom Teachers Association of North Carolina, one of those "alternative" professional groups. There's Olivia Oxendine, who's listed as an Associate Professor at UNC Pembroke and a member of the state Board of Education; the FACTS report doesn't mention that she's also with North Carolina's very conservative John Locke Foundation and failed political candidate

Two politicians. Senator Kevin Corbin, who sits on the Education Committee, and whose sponsored bills from this year include one to make sure that students and their parents could enjoy live high school sports and the state's Punish Third Graders For Failing the Reading Test law. Also, Representative David Willis, who has sponsored a bill to use COVID relief funds for vouchers, and who owns a Kiddie Academy franchise.

If you think you've guessed which way the wind is blowing here, meet our last three members.

We've got Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Center where, among other things, he has argued that North Carolina should not pay teachers for having masters degrees because it doesn't raise test scores. Yes, that makes two reps of the Lockers, who are part of SPN, tied to ALEC and all the usual suspects.

There's Lindalyn Kakadelis, executive director of the North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools and also tied to the John Locke Foundation. She believes that competition and the free market will fix education.

And finally, Baker Mitchell. Mitchell has been a leader in charter school profiteering with his conservative "classical education" charters.

So if I were a betting man, I'd suspect that this GOP-laden commission is maybe partly about weeding out evil indoctrinators and maybe part about finding one more way to kneecap public schools in North Carolina. But let's look at the report itself.

The Tattle Items

The report says that they've attached all the submitted reports, and I'm inclined to believe them (Submission #578: "Gehehsidhdbdud"). It's an interesting cross-section of grievance, despite its unfortunate resemblance to the comments on any heavily-trolled online article. Here are just a few highlights.

The one time I got on the phone with the Vice principal she made me feel like she thought she knew better for my son and when I asked her if she personally has look at the CDC website to see they published this so called virus is no more then the common cold she told me the info has not been passed to them. How hard is it to look for yourself? These kids need schools open an no mask. Wearing a mask when not necessary will do more harm to your body then this virus will. 

My grandson has to watch CNN NEWS every morning in his class. (There are multiple complaints about watching CNN.)

There are several teachers at east chapel hill high school who lecture daily a curriculum that pushes a very “progressive” liberal agenda.

At Ligon Middle School, my 6th grader (last year) was asked to complete an assignment where she was supposed to "Create Your Own Religion."

Teacher wearing BLM shirt on her bitmoji the entire year in her virtual classroom. Also talking about her wife at home etc. (And then the teacher is named.)

My 8th grade son is in the AIG program at his school. The AIG teacher chose the book "Stamped" by Jason Reynolds and Ibram Kendi. If you are familiar with the authors, they are strong supporters of CRT and the anti-racism movement. The book is very one sided and is rooted in neo Marxist ideology. I opted my son out of reading it because it is divisive, one sided, and honestly, I think it will have a negative impact on relationships with out fellow Americans and to the foundation of our country.

Teaching children gender identity, lgbt (shoving it in those kids faces that don't believe in it and KNOW that it's sinful), and teaching Black Lives Matter movement (it is like telling all other ethnic groups that they DON'T matter). Blm group is also a terrorist, satanic group...

Some responders pushed back.

NC schools are required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day at school. This fits the criteria of "Examples of students being subjected to indoctrination according to a political agenda or ideology, whether through assigned work, teacher comments, or a hostile classroom environment" since it has "God" in it and it also forced patriotism. Not all students are from the Christian faith and should not be forced to learn, recite, or even hear the Pledge of Allegiance. There are also students who are from other countries. They should not be forced into patriotism.

The school calendar only revolves around Christian holidays.

Some pushed back really hard. I'll skip those because the language will upset my mom.

And some just don't sound real. I know, I know-- never underestimate the weird out there, but still...

My son wanted to give a speech about all the good things Germany did early in the 20th century, but his teacher wouldn't let him and just kept talking about Jews, I mean what's a Jew? Sounds like the liberal media.

My nephew came home yesterday from school and informed me that his teacher laughed in his face when he said George Washington was the best president. The teacher laughed and embarrassed him and then  told the class that the only right answer was Obama.

So how did they get a report out of this?

The task force--doesn't that sound cool? like they were wearing sharp uniforms and scaling walls and cool shit--not like, say, a central committee or the loyalty oversight commission or the unAmerican activities committee sitting in a room deciding which people are not pure enough of heart-- anyway, the task force sorted through the tattles and decided which ones "needed to be examined further" and then if the report was "deemed relevant to the efforts of the Task Force" and then contacted the tattler. Then the twelve "education professionals" listed above decided if the reported naughtiness was "appropriate" or perhaps "attempted indoctrination, coercive teaching methods, or inappropriate lesson content"-- and then declare whether or not the North Carolina education system has a problem.

And that resulted in a 254 page report. Hey. Witch hunting is hard work.

There are some data-ish breakdowns, like breakdown by county (Orange and Wake Counties had the biggest share of reports) which show that "reports of indoctrination in every region" of the state. 

The Lt. Governor's office "found" six major themes/problems in the state.
    1. Fear of retaliation
    2. The Sexualization of Kids
    3. Critical Race Theory
    4. White Shaming
    5. Biased News Media and/or Lesson Plans
    6. Shaming of Certain Political Beliefs

You'll note that "People Accusing Us of Witch Hunts and Conservative Indoctrination" as well as "People Yanking Our Chain" did not make the cut.

Each of these is supported by ten or a dozen examples from the indoctrination reports. They dug hard to find all the teachers who reported fear of backlash for reporting their colleagues indoctrination. This point matters because this explains why you might not be hearing more--there's so much more indoctrination going on, but people are afraid to speak up. For "sexualization," by which they mean exposing students to info about LGBTQ stuff, there are five complaints, including one about a teaching tolerance magazine.

CRT is broadly defined so that "social justice lessons" and PD about microaggressions and equity qualify. One complaint says that the child was being taught CRT "buzz words" such as bias, discrimination, equity and racist, and that he had to use these words to pain white folks as bad. White shaming involves anything that makes white students feel bad.

Bias examples bring up the Dr. Seuss flap, and, again, the classrooms where students watch CNN. One argues that teachers shouldn't be openly vocal about personal beliefs because "Students are instructed that their teachers are the authority and speakers of truth." Don't worry, Ma'm-- folks are working on changing that. There are tons of bias examples. Shaming of certain beliefs was just leftovers that didn't fit elsewhere.

Side note. While some tattlers did turn in charter schools, I did not see any of those submissions make it into the final report. Go figure.

There's a glossary of terms (not bad, actually) and a statement about Robinson's plan of action, which is vague. Pressure needs to be put on certain districts, and that includes forcing them to cough up all the details. Then a couple hundred pages of odds and ends the task force dug up. District policies, board agendas, employee codes of conduct, materials cribbed from in-services, a whole lot of stuff from Durham County which is apparently a hotbed of naughtiness. Some selected submissions along with the follow-up information, like worksheets. A special case study of the Governor's School, a five and a half week summer school that was a treasure trove of naughty papers for the task force. 

Then. For crying out loud. A collection of tweets and facebook posts culled from various teachers and other educators, catching them being all biased and indoctrinatey (nobody asks the question-- can you indoctrinate students on social media that they don't use? Should indoctrinators be on snapchat and the gram?) This includes incriminating evidence like NC Public Schools Twitter account tweeting a promo for the joint CNN/Sesame Street town hall on "Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism." Also, they are offended by materials that draw parallels between "CRT" opponents and 1960s white integration protestors as well as KKK members. 

Basically, the task force and its deputies have been creeping on schools and school districts all over the state.

Good Lord In Heaven

This would be a hilarious piece of irony-laden baloney if it weren't such a serious attempt to crush teachers, schools, and any attempt to deal with serious issues. Joe McCarthy and the Chinese Cultural Revolution look like bad satire from a distance, I suppose, but up close, they ruined peoples' lives and damaged the fabric of society. Every member of this task force should be deeply ashamed of themselves, and that goes double for Mark Robinson. This is indefensible witch hunting, cynically unAmerican, and just plain evil. What a shame that North Carolina's teachers, who have suffered so much crap at the hands of their states' leaders, have to add this to the pile.

Everyone else? Keep an eye on your own state government.


  1. Good gracious. Well, I'll be adding you to my blogroll. Thanks for going through all this.

  2. Wow... just, wow. Bookmarking your blogspot, and VERY appreciative of your work.

  3. Beware of saying, "That can't happen in my district (town, state, etc.)" In the exceedingly liberal college town where I taught and live, a friend of mine -- a trans woman who had taught in the district for years before she transitioned -- was stripped of her classroom and essentially hounded into resignation by … nobody knows. It was fueled by a parent complaint and went from there. While she had the support of many colleagues, clearly there were people within the district who sought to get rid of her.

  4. Hey Peter, your friendly SC/NC teacher checking in here. Good 'ol, Rick Watkins, eh? Yeah, he's as ambitious as they come. He got himself on the map when he instituted school uniforms at my old middle school in Hamlet, NC. There was a lot of pushback, but eventually it spread to all of the schools in Richmond County.

    Undoubtedly what the report refers to CNN News is CNN10. I use it in my classroom and it's as "down the middle," as the host Carl Azuz says, as can possibly be. They truly go out of their way to avoid politics when they can, focusing on a lot of STEM stories, human interest stories (i.e., "CNN Heroes"), and natural disaster issues. When they do hit up politics, I'm quite amazed at their ability to thread the needle being about as objective as they possibly can.

    Finally, for those that might like to see the spin that the John Locke Foundation spits out, check out carolinajournal.