DALLAS—Some teachers at the Dallas Independent School District woke up to an email this week asking them to rat out any fellow employees for supposedly promoting so-called “critical race theory” and “predatory gender fluidity.” And they’re not happy about it.
Two teachers who received the email on Wednesday shared their reactions with The Daily Beast. Both teachers requested to remain anonymous for fear of being reported on amid an increasingly tense environment for teachers.
“I was incredulous that someone would take the time to write and disperse it,” one middle school teacher told The Daily Beast. “I clicked on the unsubscribe button and input that my reason for unsubscribing was that ‘this is racist, homophobic trash.’”
“When I saw the email I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” said one elementary school teacher. “I knew this was a view held by a lot of conservatives, that there is some plot by public schools to make white kids feel guilty for history’s atrocities or to make kids ‘scared of being straight,’ but this just comes from sensationalist information. Even the most radical of teachers are not making kids feel responsible for things their ancestors have done.”
The email, which fear-mongered about “radical politics and weird theories,” painted an apocalyptic picture of current classrooms and invited recipients to be heroes in that distorted reality: “The game is rigged against kids, parents and teachers who want to do the right thing. But with your help it doesn’t have to be.”
This effort to turn teachers into informants in a delusional crusade against the teaching of so-called “critical race theory” comes after the Texas legislature passed the new HB3979 law banning the tenets of CRT in schools. Although conservatives have fueled panic over the topic, it is not taught in elementary or middle schools, and many public schools have already been forced to put out statements clarifying that “critical race theory” is a subject taught at the college level.
Nonetheless, the furor over the issue on the right has continued, coming on the heels of and in many ways mirroring controversial efforts by Texas conservatives to collect tips on anyone seeking or providing abortion services.
“It feels like it’s coming from a conservative echo chamber that is not familiar with how public schools operate,” said the middle school teacher. “Our curriculum is packed with literacy, mathematics and test prep. We don’t have time to teach law school level theoretical concepts.”
CRT is an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to critically examine the intersection of race and U.S. law and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. But in 2020, conservative activists like Christopher Rufo began using the term “critical race theory” publicly to denounce all sorts of anti-racist education efforts. Since then, CRT has become a watchword for fears that children are being “brainwashed” into thinking that all white people are fundamentally racist.
The email circulated this week, leaked to The Daily Beast by a DISD teacher, was sent by Natalie Cato, the president of Save Texas Kids. Save Texas Kids is an advocacy organization founded by “mothers and fathers on (sic) Texas children who refuse to allow the curriculum to bend to the demands of ‘woke’ ‘progressive’ leadership,” according to its website.
“The idea that race theory, or anything about racism needs to be brow-beaten into the vulnerable minds of children is exactly why Save Texas Kids was created,” the website reads.
In the email, Cato said she wanted “kids to learn about the horrors of slavery and the evils of the ‘Jim Crow’ system” but also that “we have made great progress overcoming those injustices through the heroism of the Civil Rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, and that 40 years later we elected our nation’s first black President which Dr. King said would be the ultimate evidence that America was NOT a racist nation.”
Notably, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never made such a statement. In fact, King spoke passionately about the polite racism of white liberals. “I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress,” King wrote in the Letter from Birmingham Jail.
Cato also wrote that she opposes school boards and school administrators she alleges are “pushing the idea that there is no such thing as biological sex.” Her examples included “boys being told they can shower? with girls if they self identify as a girl” and “girls being told they must compete with boys in sports simply because a boy claims to be a girl.”
These statements echo claims made by conservative lawmakers about transgender student athletes that have made for splashy headlines. But few proponents have been able to cite specific examples.
Cato, who does not reside within the school district, did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication of this article.
In 2017, the district passed a resolution saying Dallas schools would create welcoming and protective spaces, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This includes modest accommodations, like addressing a student by their preferred pronoun.
Save Texas Kids is one of over 160 groups across the country that have recently emerged to disrupt lessons on race and gender, according to an NBC News analysis of media reports and organizations’ promotional materials. In the Dallas area, several have popped up to stoke outrage and engage in school board elections.
In April, controversial fliers were circulated in the wealthy Park Cities enclave of Dallas by two nonprofit groups seeking to stoke the flames of an already heated school board race.
One of the groups, Park Cities Parents Unite, emerged amid fights over COVID-19 protocols, and the group hasalso taken up the fight against CRT and transgender students. Their flier vilified students engaging in civil rights protests. It is unclear who operates and funds the 501c4 group.
On Aug. 25, Park Cities Parents United shared a “School Board Watchlist” on their Facebook page, an initiative that “finds and exposes school board leadership that supports anti-American, radical, hateful, immoral, and racist teachings in their districts, such as Critical Race Theory, the 1619 Project, sexual/gender ideology, and more.”
The other group, Metroplex Citizens for a Better Tomorrow, sent out a flier earlier this year lambasting one of the candidates in the school board race as a “New Jersey Liberal” who “Had a BLM Sign in His Yard” and worked as a “Diversity Officer.”
The treasurer of Metroplex Citizens for a Better Tomorrow, hotelier Monty Bennett, issued a statement to the Dallas Morning News at the time: “Everyone knows that the left-wing media’s bully culture is to twist whatever anyone says into making a conservative look bad and a lefty look good,” he wrote. “There’s no point in countering the misrepresentations and distortions you will no doubt write in this article.”
Such efforts have caused school board members to resign in frustration across the country, creating a political power vacuum for the most rabid activists to fill. Now with the rise of state-sanctioned anti-abortion bounty-hunting and snitch-sites in Texas, it isn’t just school board officials that are becoming political targets.
In a statement to Spectrum News, Save Texas Kids said they hope to identify individual teachers so they can confront school and district officials.