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Judge: “At what point will it be enough?”

Virginia school district’s “anti-racist” training targeted in lawsuit over principal’s discharge


Judge: “At what point will it be enough?”

Emily Mais wanted to be an elementary school teacher for as long as she remembers. She viewed teaching as a way to fulfill her passion for helping children grow into their best selves. Yet in a lawsuit filed last April, she contended that passion was cut short when Albemarle County school administrators forced her to resign from her job as assistant principal at Charlottesville’s Agnor-Hurt Elementary School after she criticized the school district’s mandatory “anti-racism” teacher training.

School district officials came down hard on Mais after a March 2021 webinar, when she inadvertently used the phrase “colored people,” when she meant to say, “people of color.” Mais quickly, and repeatedly, apologized, but school officials continued to demand multiple public apologies from the veteran educator.

Both that treatment and the school district’s so-called “anti-racist” policy and training curriculum were at the heart of a federal court hearing Thursday. School board attorney Jeremy Capps, who filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the action, tried to focus on two racially derogatory comments made about Mais by a fellow teacher. “The fact that she uttered an offensive term or phrase, and then was met with what she characterized as offensive language from co-employees, doesn’t create a hostile work environment,” Capps argued.

Yet Capp’s narrow focus didn’t fly with U.S. District Judge Norman Moon. “There’s certainly more in the pleadings than you are relating,” he countered. Moon also questioned the necessity of school administrators’ repeated requests to apologize for her comment, questioning why an apology needed to be made to the entire school and why it needed to be made more than once. He returned to what he characterized as a disproportionate reaction by the school system later in the hearing. “When are you going to let up?” he asked Camp. “At what point will it be enough?”

The off-color comments made about Mais—assumed true for purposes of the motion to dismiss—came after the inadvertent comment by Mais during a required webinar training session on “Becoming an Anti-Racist School System: A Courageous Conversation.” Mais alleges the seminar, led by Glenn Singleton, the author of Courageous Conversations About Race, promotes racial stereotypes and advocates differential treatment based on race.

It was that controversial training—part of a pedagogy pushed by educational elites called critical race theory, or CRT—that Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Hal Frampton repeatedly returned to in his argument that Mais had laid out enough facts in her complaint to get to trial. Frampton charged the school’s “amped up response” to her inadvertent comment—which included overt racial harassment and intimidation—gave her hopelessness that forced her to resign.

But Frampton also charged that the curriculum itself was responsible for her mistreatment. White staff members were shut down or dismissed in front of other staff members, and white staff members who criticized the race-based curriculum were told they could not understand because they were not black. Frampton argues that Courageous Conversations itself creates a hostile environment by teaching that white people only perpetuate racism against people of color.

In an interview with WORLD, Frampton said his client has found employment at a preschool since leaving her position at Agnor-Hurt Elementary, but at a much reduced salary. Mais seeks damages to compensate for her loss of income and emotional distress, pain, and suffering.

She is not the only one who has a problem with the racially divisive curriculum. A group of Albemarle County parents also sued the school district in December 2021, charging that the “anti-racist” curriculum implemented in county middle schools and high schools violates state constitutional protections, as well as their children’s right to free speech. They also point to their parental rights—their constitutional right to control the education and upbringing of their children. After a state court judge dismissed their case in June, the parents appealed the case to the Virginia Court of Appeals. The appeals court has not yet set a hearing on the case, said Frampton.

Virginia is also not the only state where a critical race theory-inspired curriculum or policy has been attacked. School employees in Missouri and Illinois challenged similar training in federal lawsuits filed by the Georgia-based Southeastern Legal Foundation last year. Both remain pending.

For Mais, the lawsuit is not just about her job, as important as that is to her, but about training that directs teachers to be racist. “I believe every person is made in the image of God and entitled to equal treatment and respect, so this content immediately set off warning signals,” the veteran educator wrote in an opinion article for the New York Post, adding, “I had to speak up.”

Steve West

Steve is a reporter for WORLD. A graduate of World Journalism Institute, he worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor in Raleigh, N.C., where he resides with his wife.



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