Plaintiff alleges he was “compelled … to make professions about his racial, sexual, gender and religious identities in verbal class exercises and in graded, written homework assignments which were subject to the scrutiny, interrogation and derogatory labeling”
During the Legal Insurrection Foundation’s online event How Critical Race Training Is Harming Higher Education, I mentioned that lawsuits challenging mandatory training that singled people out by race (e.g., “white privilege” training) would be the new frontier in college-related litigation.
Jodi Shaw, one of the panelists, described such training at Smith College:
This race shaming is bound to result in litigation.
I used the analogy of how student lawsuits challenging lack of due process in campus sexual assault/harassment ‘kangaroo courts’ had reshaped the landscape of campus prosecutions. Of course, it was the regulatory reforms, passed through the formal rulemaking process, by Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration that helped reinstate a measure of due process, but that regulatory process was in the context of years of civil litigation. (See also our online event, Due Process on Campus, What’s Next?)
A lawsuit was filed recently that may be the first of the litigations to open the floodgates, though it’s in the context of elementary school Critical Race Training. It involves Democracy Prep, which has multiple locations, including one in Nevada.
The case first gained attention in a tweet thread from Colin Wright:
1/ ?BREAKING: Lawsuit filed today against educational agencies, teachers, principal, & CEO responsible for hosting workshops requiring children to make public professions about their racial, sexual, gender & religious identities, some of which were singled out for interrogation. pic.twitter.com/bwyd7lV8An
— Colin Wright (@SwipeWright) December 23, 2020
Greg Piper at The College Fix has more on the lawsuit:
A Nevada mother has followed through on her threat to file a civil rights lawsuit against her son’s charter school for refusing to let him opt out of a mandatory class that promotes hostility toward whites as a race.
Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus forced William Clark “to make professions about his racial, sexual, gender and religious identities in verbal class exercises and in graded, written homework assignments,” creating a hostile environment, the biracial high school student and Gabrielle Clark allege in their federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The senior’s statements were “subject to the scrutiny, interrogation and derogatory labeling of students, teachers and school administrators,” who are “still are coercing him to accept and affirm politicized and discriminatory principles and statements that he cannot in conscience affirm.”
The suit also names Democracy Prep Public Schools, the New York-based charter network, and several officials in the local school and network as defendants.
Both the Wright thread and College Fix article have more of the allegations and evidence submitted as part of the court filing.
Here are the introductory paragraphs of the Complaint, indicating the legal theories pursued:
1. Plaintiff, William Clark, brings suit for injunctive relief and damages against Defendants for repeatedly compelling his speech involving intimate matters of race, gender, sexuality and religion. Defendants compelled Plaintiff William Clark to make professions about his racial, sexual, gender and religious identities in verbal class exercises and in graded, written homework assignments which were subject to the scrutiny, interrogation and derogatory labeling of students, teachers and school administrators. By directing Plaintiff William Clark to reveal his identities in a controlled, yet non-private setting, to scrutiny and official labeling, Defendants were and still are coercing him to accept and affirm politicized and discriminatory principles and statements that he cannot in conscience affirm. Defendants “invade the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.” West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624. Defendants repeatedly threatened William Clark with material harm including a failing grade and non-graduation if he failed to comply with their requirements. When he declined to participate in these confessional exercises and assignments, Defendants rejected his requests for reasonable accommodation and acted on their threats. Defendants’ coercive and intrusive behavior compelled William Clark’s protected speech and invaded his privacy, violating his constitutional rights under the First Amendment and his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment
2. Plaintiff, Gabrielle Clark, a black woman, is William Clark’s mother and only living parent guardian. William’s father, now deceased, was a white man and an attorney. Plaintiff Gabrielle Clark brings suit on her own behalf and asserts her Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to family integrity and autonomy, which the Defendants deliberately threatened and undermined in word and deed, directing her son in class to “unlearn” the basic Judeo-Christian principles she imparted to him, and then retaliated against her son with a failing grade and threats of non-graduation when he declined to participate. Parents possess a right and covenant to guide and direct the upbringing of their children, and courts have repeatedly honored and upheld this right. See Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 66 (2000) (O’Connor, J., plurality); see also Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 401-02 (1923) (upholding the “power of parents to control the education of their own.”)
3. Defendants, who include a state funded and sponsored charter school, teachers and senior administrators, have deliberately created a hostile educational environment for Plaintiff William Clark, who, unlike his classmates appears to be and is regarded by his peers as white. Defendants thus discriminated on the basis of race and color, in addition to sex, gender and religion, in violation of Title VI and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq. As Gabrielle Clark told Defendants in a meeting seeking accommodation, “you put a bullseye on my son’s back.” The following illustration is copied directly from Defendant school’s mandatory class material annexed hereto as Exhibit A and exemplifies the glib discriminatory tone of the compulsory instruction:
Exhibit A (pdf.) to the Complaint is a compilation of what it calls Class Materials. It’s pretty shocking, but also pretty standard for CRT being pushed in education.
Here are a few examples of slides:
Democracy Prep provided the following statement in response to a request for comment and response to the lawsuit:
We strongly disagree with how the class has been characterized. In addition we have yet to be served with the lawsuit.
This case is very fact specific as to alleged conduct towards the plaintiff, conduct which we can assume will be disputed at least in part. While such a fact specific case may not serve as a role model for others, it does illustrate a point about the legal issues surrounding CRT.
We will continue to follow the case.
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