A first in the nation federal court hearing is scheduled in Las Vegas this week to determine if a public school has the right to impose racially bigoted instruction that defines people based on characteristics such as their race, religious beliefs, sexuality and gender. Further, the curriculum at the public charter Democracy Prep AC high school requires those deemed by virtue of their characteristics to be “oppressors” or who enjoy “privilege” to “unlearn” their beliefs and past actions. The federal court hearing, set for February 25th, is to determine if high-school senior William Clark and his mother, Gabrielle, will be granted an emergency injunction and relief, including erasing a failing grade that William received in his “Sociology of Change” civics class. This grade, which violates the school’s own policy and is based on an unconstitutional compulsion of speech that William finds repugnant, is preventing William from pursuing his dream of attending a top university. The school even is threatening him with denial of graduation. The lawsuit also seeks to prevent the continued teaching of the controversial and racially inflammatory class.
The Democracy Prep AC “civics” class, inspired by a political activist and advocate of critical race theory, is premised on the notion of “intersectionality” which asserts that “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, [are] regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent system of discrimination or disadvantage.” The Sociology of Change class instructs students that it is impossible for a person of color to be racist.
William Clark is the only student in his class who appears to be white, even though he is actually bi-racial. His late father was white but his mother, Gabrielle, is black. William, a male, was raised as a Christian. Based on the edicts of critical race theory as advanced in his Sociology of Change class, these characteristics – male, white, Christian – mark William as enjoying substantial “privilege” and being an “oppressor” of other people.
William finds the premise of this instruction to be wrong and repugnant. He subscribes to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy that it is the content of a person’s character and not skin color that defines an individual. Further, nothing about William’s upbringing suggests that he enjoys privilege or has oppressed other people. Indeed, William lives with his mother and siblings in transitional housing and works some 35 hours per week at a local Taco Bell to help support the family as his father died when he was young and his mother is disabled.
William and his mother repeatedly asked the Democracy Prep AC administration for an accommodation that would allow William to take another civics class, but no accommodation was made available. Instead, they were told that this class was mandatory for high school seniors, and was required for graduation. When William continued to oppose completing assignments that compelled him to make statements with which he strongly disagreed, the school suspended him, gave him a D- minus grade in the class and has threatened to deny him the ability to graduate from high school.
In their response to the injunction request, the Democracy Prep AC school absurdly claim that the disciplinary actions they have imposed on William are “minimal” and amount to nothing more than “discouragement.”
But aside from receiving a failing grade and being threatened that his high school graduation is at risk (and thus make college attendance impossible) a key element of critical race theory instruction is that students like William are required to “unlearn” the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that undergird his supposed privilege and oppressive nature. For example, according to class materials and instruction imposed on him by the school, Christianity is labeled as “oppressive” because it is a “dominant ideology.” William is expected to “undo and unlearn” those beliefs and attitudes, and instead affirm as true the beliefs that the Sociology of Change class present as incontrovertible facts.
The hearing is believed to be the first time in the nation where critical race theory instruction has come under legal inquiry in a federal court. The posture of the litigation – a request for emergency injunction – presents some difficulties in that it is normally designed to consider preliminary legal orders intended to freeze the parties at a place before the controversy existed. To succeed, a party must show that it has established a likelihood that it will prevail when all the facts are litigated in a normal court process. But William’s attorneys are asking the federal judge to issue a mandatory injunction changing Williams grade, because he is in the process of applying right now to universities and colleges. “This [D-] grade is causing William substantial harm right now and immediate relief is required or that harm will become permanent…He is applying to colleges right now; transcripts are being prepared and sent right now. If this grade is not changed now, no future relief the Court may afford him will suffice to undo the harm he is likely to experience within days or weeks as colleges review those transcripts.”
With the sole exception of the critical race theory Sociology of Change class William has excelled in his academic pursuits. He aspires to a career in musicology and has been working toward earning a full scholarship at a top university such as NYU or the University of California, Berkeley. The outcome of the court hearing on February 25th will thus be critical to his future.
The International Organization for the Family (IOF), publisher of iFamNews, founded the grassroots group Schoolhouse Rights to support litigation such as this. We will update this story as developments warrant.