Just one year ago, fourth grade teacher Rickie Farah was honored as a teacher of the year in Southlake, an affluent community outside of Dallas, Tex. Now, she was on the cusp of being singled out for punishment by the school board. Her crime: A student in her class had taken home a copy of teacher Tiffany Jewell’s best-selling book, This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work, from Farah’s classroom library. When the child’s parents filed a complaint with the school district, alleging that the book was inappropriate, administrators declined to punish Farah. Then Southlake’s new conservative majority school board intervened. By a vote of three to two, members agreed to direct school administrators to place a letter of reprimand in Farah’s personnel file, permanently blemishing the record of one of the district’s star teachers.

“It’s really chilling,” says Jennifer Hough, a parent and member of the Southlake chapter of Dignity for All Texas Students. “The message that’s being sent to the teachers in this school district is that nobody’s safe.”

In May, parents angry over a proposed plan to address racism in Southlake’s schools propelled a slate of conservative candidates into office. Today, that parent anger, along with the state’s new limits on how teachers address controversial issues, increasingly informs district policy. The school district recently announced new rules restricting what books teachers can assign and instructing them to get rid of books that parents might perceive as biased. Even books on the Holocaust should be balanced with opposing perspectives, officials told teachers.

Culture of grievance

In recent months, debates over race and equity have roiled school districts across the country. More than 27 states have introduced legislation limiting how teachers can talk about race and racism in the classroom. But the enforcement of these measures will largely rest on parents, who’ve been newly deputized to ensure that teachers aren’t teaching “critical race theory” (CRT), a vague catchall that has rapidly expanded to include almost anything that conservatives don’t like. A growing roster of parent groups—Moms for Liberty, No Left Turn, Parents Defending Ed—encourages parents to blow the whistle on indoctrination in the schools by filing anonymous reports and litigation. Meanwhile, proposals to train a watchful eye on teachers by placing cameras in the classroom are gaining steam.

“It’s very Orwellian and scary,” says Chris Larson, a state senator in Wisconsin, where GOP lawmakers recently proposed installing a camera in every classroom. While cameras didn’t make it into the GOP’s bill banning the teaching of CRT in schools, lawsuits did. The bill includes a measure that would allow parents to sue K-12 schools that teach a lengthy list of prohibited concepts, including “equity,” “diversity,” and “systemic racism.” Districts found to be in violation could lose up to 10 percent of their funding. Similar measures have been enacted in Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and New Hampshire—all of which now encourage parents to report “woke” teachers and topics, and then punish entire schools and districts in response.

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Source: The GOP’s Grievance Industrial Complex Invades the Classroom

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