The Superintendent decided to double down, as the Poker expression goes, on San Diego County of Education’s Equity Committee and the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate (NPFH) program (see June 10 Coronado Eagle editorial by Karl Mueller, CUSD Equity Committee And NPFH | Opinion | coronadonewsca.com).
He did so, after hearing community concerns raised about both programs, most notably at a May 20 school board meeting. He did so, after publicly questioning the value of the Equity Committee, “I’m weighing if this committee, intended to promote dialogue, is creating the type of community division that I’m hearing, then we don’t have to have (it) to adhere to Board Policy. I’m going to regroup with my staff and revisit the purpose and the why behind this committee, because it isn’t healthy. We are not modeling healthy or appropriate things for our students.” He did so, after being directed by the body he works for, the Governing Board, to conduct a proper vetting of the No Place for Hate program and respond to the myriad of questions he and his administration were surprisingly unable to answer.
As a parent of a former CUSD student, I share the community’s concerns about both programs introducing the radical, disruptive ideology of Critical Theory. Thus, I was disappointed that not only did the Superintendent advocate for both programs, but he did so with naivete about the merits of both undertakings.
First, the Equity Committee is an affront to parent, student, and teacher’s time and your Coronado Educational dollars. Its mission is to serve as an advisory group for the Governing Board and the Superintendent, yet it has not produced any products or made any recommendations over the past 12 months, which begs the question, “What is its true purpose?” Secondly, the material that the volunteers must endure speaks for itself. I will allow the reader to look over the Equity Committee’s presentation material found at https://wetheparentscoronado.org/equity-committee/ and form an opinion whether you would want your child exposed to it. The Superintendent is quick to say that the Committee does not have the authority to adopt curriculum or change instructional programs, but the influence of having 25 teachers and students take these ideas back into the classroom cannot be discounted. Secondly, it was determined at the May 20 board meeting that the Committee had drafted a survey for your student to take at school prior to the end of the 20-21 school year. Thankfully, the Board delayed that survey until more can be learned about the Committee.
The statements made by the Superintendent about the No Place for Hate program are egregiously incorrect. First, it is not a voluntary program. When the administration directs the principals to implement the program with unclear guidance then naturally each school administrator initiats it in their own way. In the case of the Coronado High School principal, he encouraged students to attend in person, going so far as to stand in the hallway as if NPFH lessons were a pep rally, and students have reportedly felt compelled to attend both Zoom and in person “lessons” during school hours. Silver Strand Elementary reported an astounding 100% of their students signed a NPFH pledge; this does not happen in a volunteer program. The governing board, the principals, and the superintendent cannot get their stories straight about how to characterize the program. Some believe it is a committee, some a class, some a club. Some believe it takes place after school hours and some before school hours.
Second, it will not cultivate respect, kindness, and inclusivity. A parent testified during the May 20 school board meeting that in her former school district, NPFH created dissension and disrespect for opposing opinions that coalesced into bullying and instilling fear in students with opposing views.
Third, feedback from our community about the importance of and impact on school climate has not been overwhelmingly positive. How could it be? The public for all intent does not know much about the program and its impact has not been measured. It began under the cover of COVID and was not “revealed” to the public until a December 2020 news article written by a student. In the space of the proceeding four months all four CUSD schools received ADL’s NPFH designation.
Fourth, CUSD is aligning efforts and adopting curriculum from the Anti-Defamation League (i.e., an outside political organization) and is indoctrinating students. CUSD has endorsed NPFH on both the district website and on all four school’s websites. The copyrighted logo has been displayed on at least three of the four schools and is only to be used with “the permission of the ADL and in the manner consistent with the goals of [their] initiative.” If a student or parent can reasonable assume that CUSD is teaching NPFH then it is part of the curriculum. Recall the NPFH lessons showed up on students’ class schedule and most lessons took place during school hours.
Fifth, there is a political agenda behind ADL’s efforts (and by association CUSD) and NPFH promotes and directs activism. From the ADL NPFH Coordinator’s handbook, which the San Diego Field office of the ADL uses to mentor CUSD teacher and parent volunteers, it states, “Although learning how to demonstrate kindness is an important part of a child’s psychological and social development, ADL highly encourages schools to move beyond kindness to social justice.” It further states, “Sometimes in schools and in society at large, kindness and social action get conflated. They are not the same. It is important to make the distinction because many schools hope to engage young people in social action work, yet mistakenly focus on kindness because they think it will lead to social justice outcomes.”
The Superintendent only had to read the NPFH Coordinator’s Handbook, visit the NPFH website to see the curriculum and political agenda, listen to the community, and walk around the schools to know that everything he stated was less than accurate. I encourage all parents and concerned community members to educate yourself by going to https://wetheparentscoronado.org and reading the ADL NPFH handbook found at https://www.adl.org/media/11295/download.