The former Colleyville Heritage High School principal embroiled in a controversy over critical race theory now says he will not be running for a seat on the State Board of Education.
James Whitfield has "decided not to run for public office," he said in a statement Tuesday to NBC 5. State records showed he filed earlier this month as a Democrat to challenge Republican Patricia Hardy.
The District 11 seat, which includes parts of Tarrant, Parker and Dallas counties, helps shape what 5 million Texas public school students learn, The Dallas Morning News reports.
"While I may not be running for this seat, I remain committed to advocating for educators and being a champion for ALL students to receive a high-quality, equitable education, no matter their zip code, race, or any other factor - I'll just be doing it in a different capacity," he wrote.
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Whitfield tendered his resignation as principal at Colleyville Heritage High School last month after "disputes" between him and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, the district says. His resignation is effective Aug. 15, 2023, and he will remain on paid administrative leave until then as part of a settlement agreement with the district.
Whitfield, who is Black, was named principal of Colleyville Heritage before the 2020-21 school year and was soon after accused online and in board meetings of teaching critical race theory, a buzzword for parents and politicians who feel that efforts to teach America’s difficult history on race, and make classrooms more comfortable with diversity, have become too divisive.
"For the record, I think politics need to stay out of public education - and once and for all - CRT is NOT taught in K-12 public schools," Whitley's statement read. "Anyone saying otherwise is using scare tactics for political reasons. My hope is that reasonable people will be able to see through the fearmongering and show up to the polls when local school board elections come around. They matter and our youth are counting on us."
Whitfield said he was also asked to take down anniversary photos of him and his wife, who is white, embracing on the beach.
A district spokesperson said some of the photos "contained poses that are questionable for an educator, especially a principal or administrator."
A petition in support of Whitfield gained hundreds of signatures.
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.