High School Forces Kids to Attend ‘Racial Identity’ Classes on MLK Jr. Day

March Held In Ferguson Marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Scott Olson/Getty Images

New Trier High School, one of the country’s top public schools, is forcing students to attend seminars on racial identity on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“The goals for this day are to help New Trier students develop a deeper understanding of their own racial identities and the identities of others, and to better understand how we can all work to counter the impact of systemic racism in our lives,” reads a statement on the school district’s website.

Attendance is mandatory, though other public institutions in New Trier Township will be closed in observance of the holiday.

Students at the high school’s two campuses will be allowed to choose from a list of provocative and highly political seminars on race, including the following:

The Truth about Ferguson: The Investigation into the Death of Michael Brown

The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked protest and outrage regarding the treatment of people of color by law enforcement. Some demanded reform and recognition of ongoing injustices, while others came to the defense of officer Darren Wilson. Meanwhile, similar events following Brown’s death continued to go viral on social media. The United States Justice Department investigated the death of Brown as well as the Ferguson Police Department as a whole. This seminar will look into the Justice Departments findings.

Why Do I Have to Feel Guilty for Being White?

Talking about race doesn’t usually feel good for anyone. White people often walk away feeling guilty and thinking, “But I didn’t do anything!” In this workshop, we’ll explore how white guilt can become a roadblock in our journeys toward becoming white allies.

Unconscious Perceptions of Race

How does the media you choose and the community in which you live both reflect and influence the way you look at race. Join us as we look at our automatic thinking processes, how it influences the way we look at race and consider how we might adapt those processes.

Mascot or Mockery: Finding Stereotypes in Popular Culture

We will discuss the presence of racially charged parts of our popular culture that we often accept. We will discuss Halloween and sports mascots in particular. Many universities, including the University of Illinois, have recently wrestled with this topic.

Disney and the Creation of Racial Identity

Watch classic Disney films and discuss how these films influence childhood development of racial identities.

Representations of the Middle East: Stereotypes and Islamophobia

This session will examine racial stereotypes of Middle Easterners in film, television, news, and current events and how these stereotypes contribute to the Islamophobic climate. We will use the “Pyramid of Hate” model to assess the escalation of anti-Muslim rhetoric, profiling, and hate crimes.

Western Bias in Science

Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein… Were all of the great discoveries in science made by Greeks and Europeans? Explore the impact of our western bias in the history of science in this discussion session.

Dear Mom and Dad, What (Race) Am I?

This session will focus on a conversation of racial classification and identity.

What is Your Privilege?

Participants will walk through a simulation of what it is like to lose privilege and view others who have it. Participants will be given an identity of a different race and will be given the hardships that encompass that race.

Yer’ A White Wizard, Harry: Whitewashing in Cinema

This is a discussion about white dominance in the film industry. We are going to be taking a look at different cases where the voices of People of Color were silenced by the industry and how we can change it.

Intersections: Where Race and Gender Connect

This session will be led by representatives from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Gender and Sexuality Center. The session will examine the intersections between race and gender and how each impacts one’s identity.

One seminar focuses on the experience of being a black Muslim. No other faith is represented in the schedule. Several others touch on sexual themes, including an seminar on black artists entitled “To Pimp a Butterfly.”

Full lists of seminars are provided for the Northfield (freshman) campus and the Winnetka (main) campus.

In addition, students will be required to attend a “special presentation” by Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, and a keynote address by author Isabel Wilkerson, an open supporter of the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

A concerned parent contacted Breitbart News and confirmed that students would not be excused from school. An email to parents from Timothy Hayes, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, reminded parents that “MLK Seminar Day is a regular attendance day, and we will follow our typical procedures for attendance.”

Hayes did not return requests from Breitbart News for comment, nor did New Trier Superintendent Linda Yonke.

One parent, who did not wish to be named, told Breitbart News via e-mail:

“In order to be post-racial you have to live it. There’s a time and place to look at racism and the horrors endured. But this is morphing into getting people riled up. It is always about seeing people different rather than what is shared.

“They are supposed to be a neutral environment. Yet they are pushing all this ‘white guilt,’ using our kids for their own agenda, twisting their minds–whether it be sexual or racial.”

Another parent, who likewise did not wish to be named, said via e-mail:

“This is supposed to be a day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. Yet of the 59 classes, over half seem to focus on the color of skin and not the content of character. Why not spend the day to study, reflect and write about Dr. King’s actual words, the advancements made and the dreams yet to be realized?…

“These ‘workshops’ and ‘classes’ seem likely to breed within the kids a sense of guilt and shame–as if they are at fault for the misfortune in the world and it is their responsibility to make amends. Several classes are designed to teach them to be, in essence, ‘community organizers.’…It all seems like there is a political agenda underlying it all.”

The program for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day appears to violate the policies of the New Trier Township High School District, which require a balanced presentation of political issues: “We charge the faculty with the obligation to help our students identify arguments or preachments which are demonstrably unbalanced by bias, hate, calumny, distortion of facts, or ignorance of or indifference to the laws of evidence and the requirements of proof.”

District personnel are also required to “Refrain from using school contracts and privileges to promote partisan politics, sectarian religious views, or personal agendas of any kind. Foster critical thinking and development of alternative views.”

Yet the program for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is shaped by radical left-wing ideology. There are no presentations from conservative perspectives, such as seminars that question the idea of “systemic racism” itself.

Other area schools–including Evanston Township High School, which has the largest percentage of black students of any high school on the North Shore–will be closed for the holiday, as usual.

New Trier High School is located on Chicago’s affluent North Shore, and was ranked #4 in the nation last year, according to Business Insider, which gave the district an A+ for academics and teachers, but a C+ for diversity.

The school was also the setting for many of John Hughes’s classic 1980s films portraying suburbia, and is the basis for the wealthy schools portrayed in Risky Business and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It boasts many famous and influential alumni, including Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, Hollywood icon Ann-Margret, Nobel laureate Jack Steinberger, and actor Adam Baldwin, a noted conservative who told Breitbart News students should “call in sick.”

Update: Superintendent Yonke has issued a statement:

“Current events show us that there is still much work to be done toward creating a world in which people are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin,” said Dr. Linda Yonke, Superintendent of New Trier Township High School District 203. “We are proud to spend a day exploring these important topics.”

She did not explain how “racial identity” relates to “character” and not color.


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