Students and parents are organizing in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, demanding their school district speak out on attacks, steeped in race, which they say have unfairly targeted one of their principals.
Students met recently to discuss growing tension over their principal, Dr. James Whitfield, and accusations by some in the community that he is trying to teach an anti-white curriculum in the district.
The students from Colleyville Heritage High School, where Whitfield is principal, said they were shocked by statements made at a recent Grapevine-Colleyville ISD school board meeting pointing to a letter Whitfield wrote after George Floyd’s death about racial injustice. There were also statements about an optional class he held for teachers on learning about racial differences. Critics also point out Facebook posts from activists which link critical race theory with the district.
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Many of Whitfield’s critics spoke at a recent board meeting.
“I was made aware of Mr. Whitfield’s extreme views on race,” said critic Stetson Clark, who recently lost a school board election in the district.
He was asked by school board president Jorge Rodriguez not to call an employee by name but Clark continued, with other critics yelling from the audience to fire Whitfield.
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Rodriguez posted to the district website that he will make sure rules are followed at upcoming meetings.
“Once they step out of line to attack our principal, people sit here and stay silent and do nothing. They’re his bosses and they sit silent as he gets harassed,” said Sean Vo, one of the students supporting the principal.
In a Facebook post and interview with NBC 5, Whitfield talked about how the district not only let his attackers speak, but previously ordered him to take down these 10-year-old photos on his Facebook page of him and his wife. The district insisted it had to do with what was appropriate, but Whitfield said it was just complaints from those angry with his views on race.
“(if) want to irradicate racism, squash intolerance, and bigotry and everything that comes with it. We have to unapologetically stand up, speak out and be about that,” said Whitfield.
Students say that’s where the district has failed and are planning a protest. Parents are meeting to saying it’s not so much about photos or politics, but asking the district not just defend itself, but its leaders.
A spokeswoman for the district pointed us to a back to school video posted by the superintendent, which talks a lot about unity but doesn’t specifically mention Whitfield.
What is Critical Race Theory?
Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what they viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society. The architects of the theory argue that the United States was founded on the theft of land and labor and that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race. Proponents also believe race is culturally invented, not biological. Read more about CRT here.