In preparation for the full reopening of schools, the Biden administration released a handbook that includes links to a group that is pushing for critical race theory-based teachings in schools. On Wednesday, the administration walked back their support of the group, blaming it on an "error."
"The Department does not endorse the recommendations of this group, nor do they reflect our policy positions," the Department of Education (DOE) said in a statement according to Fox News. "It was an error in a lengthy document to include this citation."
In their handbook titled "Roadmap to Reopening Safetly and Meeting All Students’ Needs," the Department of Education under Secretary Miguel Cardona issued guidance to how schools should approach reopening and how to use the money they will receive through the American Rescue Plan.
Linked in their handbook is the Abolitionist Teaching Network’s "Guide for Racial Justice & Abolitionist Social and Emotional Learning." Although the group doesn’t use the phrase critical race theory, they advocate for teachings in line with the theory.
"This guide builds from the premise that injustice manifests differently in different schools and communities," states the guide. They add that "Abolitionist Teaching promotes justice, healing, joy, and liberation for all Black, Brown, and Indigenous folx, inclusive of all intersecting identities."
The guide also states that said teachers should "build a school culture that engages in healing and advocacy. This requires a commitment to learning from students, families, and educators who disrupt Whiteness and other forms of oppression."
The group states that its mission is to develop and support those in the struggle for educational freedom utilizing the intellectual work and direct action of Abolitionists in many forms," according to their website.
The Department of Education’s handbook addresses meeting the social, emotional, and mental health of students returning to schools through social emotional learning.
"Schools are microcosms of society; therefore, culturally responsive practices, intentional conversations related to race and social emotional learning, and helping students understand the skills they are building in school are the foundation for participating in a democracy and should be anchor tenets in building a schoolwide system of educational opportunity," states the handbook.
The Abolishionist Teaching Network’s guide states that social emotional learning (SEL) "can be a covert form of policing used to punish, criminalize, and control Black, Brown, and Indigenous children and communities to adhere to White norms" and that "most SEL standards are rooted in Eurocentric norms, not to empower, love, affirm, or free Black, Brown, or Indigenous children."
The group advocates instead for an "abolitionist" approach to SEL in which students and teachers "Learn about the beauty, joy, and resilience of Black, Brown, and Indigenous folx and the complexity of the African diaspora (because not all Black folx are African American)."
They also advocate for investigating "how existing SEL frameworks are weaponized against Black, Brown, and Indigenous children and communities."
In a list of demands from abolitionist teachers, they advocate for "Free, radical self/collective care and therapy for Educators and Support Staff of Color," "Free, antiracist therapy for White educators and support staff," as well as removing "any and all police and policing from schools."
The network of teachers "is dedicated to not creating new schools or reimagining schools, but destroying schools that do nothing but harm Black and brown children," said Abolitionist Teaching Network co-founder Bettina Love during a welcome webinar according to Fox News.
Love added that the group would "create a national database of antiracist school counselors, therapists and lawyers." She said her group planned to pay its "activists in residence" to travel around the country and "go into schools or communities and do the work of dismantling."
"If you don’t recognize that White supremacy is in everything we do, then we got a problem," said Love. "I want us to be feared."
The teachings advocated by this group fall into a number of complaints many parents and teachers have had in recent months, with school board meetings in places like Virginia becoming battlegrounds against such teachings.
One Loudon County, Virginia mother said at a school board meeting "now I have a dream that we will implement love, not hate, or supporting another Jim Crow’s agenda," she continues.
"CRT is not a ‘nice dialogue,’ it was a tactic that was used by Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan on slaveries many years ago to dumb down my ancestors so we could not think for ourselves. CRT is racist; it is abusive; it discriminates against one’s color."