District 65 offices at the JEH Education Center.

An organization called FAIR (Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism) says some of the curriculum in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 is anything but fair when it comes to certain issues surrounding gender and race.

The New York-based group says it is a “nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing civil rights and liberties, and promoting a common culture based on fairness, understanding, and humanity.”

FAIR says it has more than 100 chapters, including one in Evanston which is listed on the organization’s website.

In a letter to District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton, FAIR criticizes some of the school system’s lessons about gender identity and race.

For example, FAIR says that one lesson teaches young children that “people are in ‘danger’ because of ‘whiteness,’ suggests that racism is exclusively associated with ‘whiteness,’ claims without qualification that ‘white’ people have more opportunities than ‘non-white’ people, and refers to individuals as having ‘labels.'”

FAIR’s letter says while there is no doubt “of past and present injustices committed in this nation,” efforts to remedy prejudice should not lead to prejudice against others.

FAIR attorney Letitia Kim says the federal Civil Rights Act prohibits federally funded entities such as public schools “from stereotyping students or creating a hostile environment.”

Kim’s letter states that “Teaching young children that ‘whiteness’ is dangerous not only creates fear in these young minds but assigns negative traits to individuals based on nothing more than the color of their skin. This is unconstructive and dehumanizing.”

FAIR also suggests that some of the lessons on gender and pronouns may be unconstitutional.

While children should have the right to declare a personal pronoun voluntarily, FAIR says “Teaching students that they must use alternative pronouncs and announce their own may also violate their religious rights.”

FAIR also states that District 65’s lessons on alternative prounouns and “whiteness” are not age appropriate, as some coursework is for pre-kindergarten through third grade (ages 4-9).

“We believe,” FAIR says, “there are significant concerns as to whether these subjects are appropriate for such young children” who are “not yet developed or informed eough to fully understand, analyze, or critique those concepts.”

FAIR has a nearly 50-member multi-racial, multi-ethnic board of advisors, made up of scholars, journalists, artists, and human rights activists.

The attorney’s letter to Superintendent Horton says it would “like to give District 65 an opportunity to respond,” and asks Horton to let FAIR know within five days if the district intends to do so.

The letter does not say whether FAIR will file a lawsuit if District 65 does nor reply, or if the reply is deemed unacceptable by the group.

Evanston Now has asked FAIR if a lawsuit is possible, however, we have not heard back.

We also asked District 65 for comment, but have not heard from them either.

Based on a previous unrelated case, it seems there is no chance that District 65 will agree to change the coursework.

Last year, teacher Stacy Deemar sued the district, alleging reverse discrimination against white educators. Deemar claimed teachers were forced to undergo training where they had to acknowledge that “whiteness is inherently racist.”

Deemar’s lawsuit was filed by the conservative Southeast Legal Foundation.

District 65 has asked that the suit be thrown out, saying Deemar’s allegations are wrong, that the curriculum is appropriate, and that Deemar’s lawsuit was a “blatant attempt” to use the courts to apply her political and/or philosophical views against a legitimate school program.

The Deemar case is still pending in federal court in Chicago.


Update at 12:15 p.m. May 21:

Evanston Now has received an emailed response from FAIR founder and president Bion Bartning regarding our question about a possible lawsuit:

“We prefer to resolve issues in a constructive manner and hope Superintendent Horton chooses to respond to our letter.   Being inclusive starts with listening to diverse perspectives, and accepting the unique cultures, values, and deeply held beliefs of families who are part of the school community.

“We advocate for a pro-human approach to anti-racism and DEI that promotes tolerance, recognizes the unique identity and intrinsic value of every person, and centers on our shared humanity. 

“While perhaps well intended, D65’s current approach to addressing these important topics in the classroom is misguided, and will create more racism, more intolerance, and more polarization.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you for publishing this. Another thing that struck me was how whiteness/white supremacy is taught to be associated with the gender binary. This means kids who are taught to be anti-racist might feel obligated to change their pronouns in order to counter the sin of whiteness. Imagine being 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 years old and learning that your gender and race are associated with oppression and harm. How do you not take that personally? Such irresponsible curriculum created by people who have no respect for how young kids think and how sensitive they are.

  2. Parent of a white kid here. I’m glad they are more aware of race and racism and how as a white kid they carry a privilege not afforded to others. I’ve seen an increase in empathy.

    That said, they are also now terrified of offending BIPOC kids and have become a bit obsessed with racial identity. So, it’s been a mixed bag.

    The thing is it’s is unclear if the current curriculum was even field tested. It’s a huge experiment in the end, one that exploded during a time of acute crisis when nobody was making reasonable decisions.

    And I can’t say I trust Dr. Horton and the Board to truly reflect on the impact of the curriculum on kids, but I am confident parents will be receiving an “unapologetic” email diatribe about FAIR sometime soon.

  3. FAIR is a well-known group fighting for classic liberal values, with “liberal” referring to those that defend civil liberties and promote a free discussion of ideas with respectful disagreement supported. FAIR includes on their Board of Advisors such well-known progressive and free thinking members as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Kmele Foster, John McWhorter, Michael Shellenberge, Andrew Sullivan and Barry Weiss. No doubt the Woke crowd of Evanston will completely dismiss the organization as white supremacists and racists, because that’s what they do with those who disagree with their views. In fact I looked at the District 65 Parents and Guardians Facebook page and see that some are already labelling FAIR as a “hate group” and “racist”.

    This is why it’s so important that FAIR is challenging District 65: because reasonable people in this town who believe the district has veered into unconstitutional indoctrination territory cannot feel safe to question the agenda without risking being ostracized, canceled, or at a minimum cyber-screamed at for being “racist”. Therefore they remain silent. On the D65 Facebook page there is no civility, no open discussion of ideas and they certainly seem to believe that the ends justify the means, therefore they are free to scream at anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint because they are so utterly convinced that their viewpoint is the one and only truth.

    This is also the mentality of Dr. Horton and the current school board and their commitment to a so-called “anti-racist“ agenda. There is simply no questioning allowed because they know they are right and Ibram Kendi told them that they are free to label those who disagree with the “anti-racist” agenda as simply “racists”.

    So kudos to FAIR for taking up this fight. It is the pushback we need against the over-the-top agenda that has inflicted Evanston and the District 65 school district.

  4. Look, I’m all for the curriculum being changed in our schools. The school kids deserve an anti-racist curriculum that is even-handed, open to all sides of the story and encourages conversation, learning how to handle difficult conversations and not this namby pamby sort of pseudo kumbaya, shove anti-racism down your throat, and tiptoe around the topic of the harm it’s doing kind of stuff. The best way to achieve true anti-racism though is to listen to the kids and find out where they’re struggling and figure out how we can all get to anti-racism together. So yes, American and British classic literature should still be taught, so should Greek and Roman literature, and so should Afircan, Asian, LatinX, and Native literature.. there should be a span of all with the intent to teach all the kids how to assess all the literature — but turning the curriculum into one where it’s all anti-racism is causing a lot of uproar. Neighbors my kids play with are upset that their kid isn’t learning the English classics -and it’s driven a wedge between us. Honestly, I want my kid to read some of those too AND to also read the writings of non-white Americans. There has to be a balance. I really hope that Devon Horton figures out how to get this undercontrol and in balane before he loses all of the kids, because they can’t find a way to talk and be honest, authentic, and learn.

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