The Biden Department of Education has retreated from its endorsement of the Abolitionist Teaching Network, saying it promoted the group’s extremist racial-justice agenda by “mistake.”
A link to the group’s manifesto was in an Education Department guide for reopening schools amid the pandemic.
The link went to the group’s “Guide for Racial Justice & Abolitionist Social and Emotional Learning,” which summed up the group’s philosophy: “Abolitionist Teachers believe that no Black, Brown, or Indigenous child is disposable. We must embody the spirit of Black Lives Mattering, not just say Black Lives Matter.”
Abolitionist Teaching Network makes a series of demands such as for hiring and retaining “Black, Brown, and Indigenous teachers, paraprofessionals, school counselors, and other personnel.”
Its manifesto calls for reduced class sizes in schools with large numbers of minority students, removing “any and all police and policing from schools,” and “reparations for Children of Color stolen by the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Abolitionist Teaching Network also advocates for “free, radical self/collective care and therapy for Educators and Support Staff of Color” and “free, antiracist therapy for White educators and support staff.”
The Education Department said the reference to the Abolitionist Teaching Network was an error.
“The Department does not endorse the recommendations of this group, nor do they reflect our policy positions,” the department said in a statement. “It was an error in a lengthy document to include this citation.”
Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the top Republican on the Education Committee, on Friday called on the education secretary to look for other places where the department is accidentally promoting “radical” ideologies.
In a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, she questioned how the department had mistakenly endorsed a “radical group that promotes a version of social and emotional learning that divides students by race.”
“Combating racism in our schools and society is important, but dividing our students based on their race is not a responsible solution,” wrote Mrs. Foxx.
She asked Mr. Cardona to examine all of the department’s documents and advisories to make sure there are no other mistakes.
“It is imperative that you take this opportunity to correct the early errors in the Department’s support of this divisive agenda,” she wrote. “I ask you to personally review all of the citations made in the COVID handbooks and ensure the message from you to your staff is clear: critical race theory and related policies and materials should not be referenced, referred, or recommended to any students, teachers, or educational agencies.”
It’s not the first time Mr. Cardona had to back off from educational materials that include a critical race theory agenda.
Earlier this year, he suffered strong blowback when the department proposed creating a new grant program for schools and mentioned The New York Times’ “1619 Project” as an example of what it would like to see taught in the nation’s schools. The Pulitzer Prize-winning project reframed U.S. history with slavery and racism as the centerpiece of the American experience. It has been criticized for historical inaccuracies, including that the Founding Fathers fought for independence from Great Britain to preserve slavery.
The department said it only mentioned the project as an example of what it would like to see. In creating the grant program last week, the department clarified that it will not dictate what schools teach.
• Kery Murakami can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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