American News Jun 1, 2021 1:18 AM EST

Student activists weaponized against parents who oppose removing merit-based school admissions in New York

"It's like what Hamas does with human shields," one parent born in China said. "Immigrants recognize in Teens Take Charge the Soviet Youth and the Chinese Red Guard."

Student activists weaponized against parents who oppose removing merit-based school admissions in New York
Mia Cathell The Post Millennial
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Adult activists in New York City are ordering teenaged students to attack parents who oppose the city Education Department's woke agenda. The targeted parents cannot push back or else they're accused of attacking children. "It's like what Hamas does with human shields," one of the opposing parents said.

A rally gathered outside City Hall to support gifted programs and merit-based school admissions last October was disrupted by Teens Take Charge members who tried to intimidate parents attending the demonstration, the Washington Free Beacon reported in an article titled, "The Child Soldiers of the Culture War."

Teens Take Charge, the student-led organization promoting an anti-racist agenda in the city's school system, argues that selective public schools display modern-day "segregation." For over two years, New York City's Department of Education (DOE) has argued that accelerated academics and standardized tests are racist, eroding these programs as part of the Department's equity-driven initiative.

On the opposing side, the majority of parents see the tests as tools to achieve upward mobility and oppose efforts to eliminate the exams. Public opinion backs the parents. A majority of New Yorkers support keeping gifted and talented programs for younger students. A plurality oppose eliminating the admissions test for specialized high schools, according to the NY1/Ipsos poll conducted in April.

"Keep SHSAT," numerous signs read, a reference to the Specialized High School Admissions Test that by law determines admission to the city's top public schools.

Teens Take Charge high schoolers, "who have been weaponized as child soldiers in the culture war," were then used as cudgels against parental opposition, per the Washington Free Beacon. A large banner that read "Unscreen Our Schools" was unfurled by 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. During the chaos, one parent pushed the Teen Take Charge banner aside while others threatened to call authorities.

Teens Take Charge members label those who support merit-based admissions as "racists" and segregations," since few black and Latino students perform well enough on the standardized tests to be admitted to top schools like Stuyvesant or Bronx Science. Any level of push back mobilizes Teens Take Charge to claim that students are attacked or even assaulted by the slandered adults.

"These are students you guys are attacking," socialist educator Kevin Beckford, who was chaperoning the activists, said via video taken at the October rally. Beckford was an Atlantic fellow for racial equity in 2020 and worked under the Obama administration as an appointed special advisor to Secretary Julian Castro at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Teens Take Charge program manager Tajh Sutton helped to launch the smear campaigns against the parents attending the rally, although footage of the event does not support Sutton's claims. When asked for evidence of the alleged assaults, Sutton did not reply to the Washington Free Beacon.

Sutton is well-connected, according to the Washington Free Beacon, as the president of the Community Education Council for District 14, an elected "policy advisory" group that arbitrates between the Department and district parents.

Parents and administrators have felt powerless, fearing that fighting back against the youth group could jeopardize careers and result in reputational ruin.

"You can't debate children," Deborah Alexander, a Queens parent-leader, told the Washington Free Beacon. "It's like what Hamas does with human shields," one parent born in China said to the publication. "Immigrants recognize in Teens Take Charge the Soviet Youth and the Chinese Red Guard."

Low-income and immigrant Asian parents have also joined the opposing ranks.

It isn't children who are setting the agenda, though; it's adults plugged into the DOE, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Teens Take Charge is run by an organization, The Bell, whose co-founder Taylor McGraw is part of the youth-adult Student Voice Working Group working with the Department.

Teens Take Charge has scheduled regular meetings under McGraw with top department officials, including former schools chancellor Richard Carranza, who tried and failed to eliminate the Specialized High School Admission Test.

Abiding by the requests of these adults, the Washington Free Beacon revealed, Teens Take Charge employs varied tactics to terrorize the DOE's political enemies.

The Department sides with the students whenever incidents arise.

A student with Teens Take Charge falsely accused one mom of doxing the teen after she had tweeted an article in which the student was quoted. The student's age was then used as an excuse to bury records of the ensuing struggle session.

Yiatin Chu sits on the Community Education Council where she is an outspoken advocate for competitive admissions. She is the co-president of PLACE NYC, an education advocacy group, and an immigrant from Taiwan who arrived in the United States at eight-years-old. Chu's youngest child, age 10, is at the bilingual Mandarin school PS 184, one of the few public schools in New York City without tons of anti-racism indoctrination folded into the curriculum.

Teens Take Charge student William Diep, in an interview with the New York Daily News, expressed support for eliminating the Specialized High School Admissions Test. Diep, a senior at Brooklyn Latin, is identified in the article as attending one of the specialized high schools that uses the test to screen students. When Chu screenshot the interview on Twitter to expose the hypocrisy, Diep emailed Naomi Peña, the president of Chu's education council, claiming Chu had doxed him.

A public struggle session ensued along with a behind-the-scenes coverup that exploited Diep's young age. Peña invited Diep to the next council meeting and ambushed Chu without warning, relaying what the student alleged.

"It was an outright public attack," Chu told the Washington Free Beacon. When Chu requested an official video of the meeting, Peña used the fact that Diep was under 18-years-old to stonewall the request, asking the Education Department whether releasing footage of an underage child is unethical. Although the meeting was open to the public and subject to the state's Freedom of Information Law, the Education Department never completed Chu's public records request.

Maud Maron, an elected Community Education Council member, criticized the "simplistic narrative" of "white privilege" being peddled by the Department under Carranza. Maron, a public defender with four children in local public schools, described the anti-racist ideology to the New York Post as "divisive, ugly orthodoxy" and lucrative among race hustlers.

"It's also very insidious because on the face of it, who wouldn’t want to sign up to be less racist?" she said to the New York Post last month.

In response, Teens Take Charge students demanded Maron apologize by 5 p.m. the following Monday. "If you do not," the group threatened, "we will start a petition calling for your resignation from [the council]."

Maron is running for election to the New York City Council to represent District 1. She is on the ballot in the Democratic primary on June 22. Maron is also the co-founder of Parent-Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education (PLACE), a group that supports accelerated academics in New York City public schools.

When she refused to apologize but offered to host "an open dialogue" with the students, Teens Take Charge followed through on the group's threat.

Since then, Maron told the Washington Free Beacon, members of Teens Take Charge have shown up to almost every public meeting and event she's spoken at, asking pointed questions about why she supports "segregation."

A petition on Change.org, titled "Tell Maud Maron to resign from Community Education Council 2," claimed without evidence she hadn't responded to group's email and accused Maron of "disregarding the safety" of the district's students.

Maron explained the group's message to the Washington Free Beacon: "If you dare to speak up, we'll do to you what we did to Maud."

At times, Teens Take Charge lodges an allegation so absurd it baits parents into responding to the teenage tormentors, the Washington Free Beacon reported. The teens then scramble for victimhood status when the tides have turned. There was an instance last summer when one white parent, Education Council member Tom Wrocklage, was yelled at and accused of racism for holding a friend's black baby.

When some members of Teens Take Charge amplified the accusation over social media, Wrocklage demanded an explanation for the disparaging character attack.

Sutton then argued that Wrocklage was "stalking students," while DOE's deputy schools chancellor Adrienne Austin emailed: "We do not attack children."

The amiable interplay between Teens Take Charge and the DOE has prompted several parents to question if the groups are coordinating. On paper, the former is lobbying the latter, the Washington Free Beacon reported. But in practice, Teens Take Charge seems to do the Department's bidding rather than the other way around. Leaked emails reveal that the Department has encouraged groups opposed to competitive public school admissions to "get louder," the New York Post reported last May, and even sponsored Teens Take Charge-led rallies.

In an email to parent groups on year ago, New York City Alliance for School Integration and Desegregation co-chair Miriam Nunberg said the Department was helping to marshal opposition. "DOE folks have reached out to many of these partners, asking our people to make more noise," she wrote, urging recipients to launch an email campaign alongside other actions.

"I’m writing to follow up with a request not to forward the full text of the email I sent, since it has come to my attention that it might be problematic for word to get out that the DOE is encouraging folks to make noise in response to PLACE," Nunberg penned in an additional email message soon after.

The DOE has also given Teens Take Charge preferential access to admissions data, which are cherry-picked to support its anti-test narrative, the Washington Free Beacon explained. The data appears as if the rigorous high school admissions test is biased toward privileged students, but the opposite is, in fact, true.

A public-records request filed by Teens Take Charge was completed within just four months but the Department has yet to complete similar requests filed by journalists and outside researchers, some of whom have been waiting years for the data, the Washington Free Beacon reported. The data the Department made available through Teens Take Charge includes just the racial breakdown of competitive high schools, not socioeconomic makeup, making it seem as though the Specialized High School Admissions Test is biased toward the privileged.

Asian Americans, who score best on the test, have the highest poverty rate in New York City, the Washington Free Beacon cited. It's ironic that the students trying to eliminate the test are often the rich white kids who couldn't ace the exam. Some of of that pool have even admitted to using socioeconomic privilege to rig the system.

Some of the most active members of Teens Take Charge attend Beacon High School; a plurality of students are white there. Students from much poorer families at New York City's top specialized high school Stuyvesant, which just uses the test to screen applicants, score hundreds of points higher on the SATs than students at Beacon, which also factors in intangibles like essays and interviews.

Two of Beacon's students—both white—allude to this in separate testimonials published on Teens Take Charge’s website. "We had someone to help us practice our interviews, parents that would help us with our portfolios and advocate for us," one of the student testimonies reads. "The kids like me that went on to different high schools needed less support than the rest of the kids in my grade..."

Thus, privileged activists are attempting to eliminate competition from the working-class Asians who are outscoring hardworking and gifted students.

But now several Asian families are fighting back even while Teens Take Charge is hurling all the heavy artillery in the group's arsenal at the opposing force.

Social justice group IntegrateNYC has called the Washington Free Beacon's investigative report "a disgusting and racist excuse for journalism" for comparing Teens Take Charge to extremist terrorists. "We stand with our TTC family and reject these targeted anti-Black-women attacks on @AfrocenCHICK," the tweet reads, naming Sutton who is Teens Take Charge's program manager.

"You came for all of us," IntegrateNYC tweeted last Tuesday.

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