Evanston/Skokie School District 65 sued over anti-racism programs

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 drama teacher Stacy Deemar filed a trial in June challenging the district’s anti-racism programming.

Deemar, who is white, is represented by the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a conservative law firm. She claims that district programming divides students and staff by race and discriminates against white people.

The district says Deemar misrepresented his lineup. He argues that her lawsuit should be dismissed because she failed to explain how she was personally harmed by the programming.

Deemar’s Trial

Deemar’s complaint alleges district staff participated in racial equity training sessions and teachers were separated into race-based “affinity groups” for some programs. The complaint also states that teachers were asked to attend monthly studies on the book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.”

The complaint claims that the district’s anti-racism programming forces teachers to embrace ideas such as “to be less white is to be less racially oppressive” and “white identity is inherently racist.” He further claims that the district has implemented these ideas in its program.

“Encouraging racial identities, promoting the idea that they are in conflict, and perpetuating stereotypes that divide teachers and children against each other based on the color of their skin,” the complaint argues.

The District’s Response and Motion to Dismiss

In July 2021, the district released a declaration in response to the lawsuit, describing it as part of a nationwide effort by the Southeastern Legal Foundation to target racial equity-based initiatives in K-12 schools.

“The district will continue to fulfill the intent and promise of equal protection and non-discrimination enshrined in our nation’s Constitution and civil rights laws,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, this lawsuit subverts those laws and values ​​by taking it out of context and distorting our district’s legal, sensitive, and accountable professional learning and student-focused initiatives to advance the important work of building equity. in our schools.”

The statement says Superintendent Devon Horton received two voicemails containing racial slurs and threats of physical violence as a result of media coverage surrounding the trial.

Nicki Bazer, one of the attorneys representing the district, declined to comment on pending litigation.

The following month, District 65 filed a movement to dismiss the lawsuit. In a memorandum supporting the motion, the district argues that Deemar has failed to demonstrate how she was personally harmed by her programming.

In October 2021, Deemar filed a response to the motion of dismissal from the district. The response argues that the district has created a hostile environment for Deemar.

“Daily,” the response reads, “the district reminds the complainant that she is white. And on a daily basis, the district attributes exclusively negative characteristics to whiteness, such as racism, oppression, and evil.

critical race theory

This lawsuit is part of a larger national debate over whether and how racism is discussed in schools. The Southeastern Legal Foundation is part of conservative activist Christopher Rufo’s legal coalition against critical race theory.

Rufo is the architect of the current backlash against critical race theory, which he sees as the basis of much anti-racism programming in American schools.

Critical Race Theory is an academic theory that challenges mainstream American liberal ideas about racial justice. According to Brookings Institutecritical race theory argues that racism is not simply a discriminatory view, but is structurally embedded in American social institutions such as the health care, education, and criminal justice systems.

Opponents of critical race theory argue that such notions unfairly divide people by race and cast white people as inherently racist.

This has caused an influx of bills across the country limiting how race is taught in schools. Meanwhile, “critical race theory” has become a buzzword in conservative politics. Media questions notes that Fox News mentioned the phrase more than 1,900 times in less than four months.

Members of the Evanston community react to the lawsuit

A petition supporting District 65 collected signatures from 1,891 individuals and 98 businesses and organizations.

“We, the undersigned parents, caregivers, and community members of District 65, support D65’s anti-racism initiatives that seek to repair centuries of public school indoctrination in white supremacy ideology, a belief system that serves to justify and protect white political, economic and cultural dominance,” the petition reads. “These initiatives are based on years of widely accepted research and aim to promote historical accuracy.”

Community members gathered in James Park last July for a demonstration in support of D65’s equity agenda. A dozen people spoke at the protest.

“White people have a responsibility to speak up and work for anti-racism change,” said Heather Sweeney, former District 65 parent and co-founder of Evanston White Anti-Racism Group and Next Steps Antiracism Learning Studio. “This lawsuit does not represent us.”

Sweeney said District 65’s anti-racism programming has had positive effects for students of color and white students.

“What my children have already learned about themselves, about community and about this country is an understanding of race and oppression that I have only gained over the past decade,” Sweeney said. “They are much better prepared to fight for justice because of the foundation they receive from Evanston Schools today.”

Sarah Bogan, a former District 65 student and organizer for Evanston Fight for Black Lives, slammed Deemar for filing the lawsuit.

“If we fail to ensure that our teachers, and teachers around the world, have received thorough anti-racism training and education, we are failing not only our students of color, but also our white students,” Bogan said. . “Stacy Deemar is the perfect example of the danger that white uneducation can cause.”

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @cvanwaasbergen

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