Taking a stand against critical theory
Kristen Waggoner | Parents in Virginia seek to protect their children from indoctrination
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Parents from diverse racial and religious backgrounds have sued Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia to stop the indoctrination of their children into a divisive and racially discriminatory curriculum rooted in critical theory. And they are on firm ground to do so.
Every student deserves to be treated equally under the law, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or religion. By demeaning students based on these and other characteristics, the Albemarle County schools have harmed the families they are supposed to serve—and have broken the law.
The school district introduced a new “anti-racism” policy in 2019. It taught students that a person’s race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity make him or her a member of an oppressor or oppressed class and that institutions like Christianity “dominate” society to the disadvantage of others.
Students in these groups were told that to be anti-racist, they needed to fight against “white dominant culture” on pain of being labeled “racist.” An Albemarle County Public Schools official told parents that the anti-racist curriculum would be “woven through all the classes” in the county, making it impossible to effectively opt out of the policy. The current policy allows teachers to compel students to affirm these beliefs under threat of discipline.
The school district has violated the students’ civil rights to speak up against the policy or even to stay silent on it. And because the indoctrination is compulsory, the school district also violated parents’ rights to direct their children’s upbringing and education according to their own beliefs. Fostering the truth about human dignity and equality at home isn’t enough when schools demean these truths and then demand allegiance to the opposite view.
The parents in the lawsuit attend Anglican, Catholic, and non-denominational churches. The school district’s indoctrination directly contradicts the teaching of Scripture that we are all created in the image of God, equally fallen, equally loved, and given equal access to redemption. By telling students that guilt or innocence is based on one’s race or other characteristics, the district denigrated these parents’ Christian beliefs.
The district’s new definition of racism denies agency to both white and minority students. White students are treated as racists if they won’t participate in the “dismantling” process. Minority students are stereotyped as perpetually oppressed victims.
A girl whose father immigrated from Latin America was confused and disturbed by a video that suggested people of color don’t live in “big houses.” Her parents taught her that race would not hinder her from reaching the American dream. And the mother of a son of mixed racial heritage heard him refer to his own race negatively, something he had never done before the district had implemented the policy.
The U.S. Constitution forbids racially discriminatory treatment of students, as does the Virginia Constitution and state law. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rightly called discrimination based on race “illegal, immoral, [and] unconstitutional” in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson. And in the landmark 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court righted the wrong of segregating students by race. Albemarle County Public Schools officials have disregarded the lesson of Brown. Placing students into categories of oppressed and oppressor based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity today does not remedy past injustice. It only inflicts injustice on a new generation.
The parents in Albemarle County have seen how critical theory has harmed their children. They believe it is not only their duty to teach the truth about human dignity and equality at home, but that they must also prevent their children from swallowing lies at school.
Thus far, the Albemarle County schools have ignored the concerns of parents. But if a school violates its duties to the parents and children it serves, as Albemarle County schools have, the families have a right to seek alternative education options. The court should recognize this and compensate the parents for the cost of alternative education. Legislators can provide the ultimate remedy: school choice.
As Christians, we must honor the truth of Scripture by teaching our children that we are all created in the image of God and that His grace offers complete redemption for the sin that runs through every human heart. Albemarle County Public Schools’ indoctrination of students into critical theory not only violates the law, but it compels students to adopt a counterfeit gospel of collective guilt and endless penance.
By confronting the school district’s prejudice, these parents have taken a significant step forward to protect the next generation from the destructive falsehoods of critical theory. It will be up to all of us to finish the work.
Editor’s note: Kristen Waggoner is general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents parents and their children suing the Albemarle County School Board.
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