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.”