Students Boycott High School’s Required ‘Racial Identity’ Day

MLK Day poster (Breitbart News)
MLK Day poster (Breitbart News)

At least one thousand students skipped New Trier High School’s mandatory day of “racial identity” classes on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The suburban Chicago high school, which ranks among the top public high schools in the country, held class on the public holiday, and scheduled seminars on “systemic racism” that sought to increase students’ awareness “of their own racial identities and the identities of others.”

But students stayed away in droves.

One parent, whose daughter is biracial, told Breitbart News that her daughter had deliberately avoided the program for fear of being singled out and forced to define herself by her skin color.

“She called me from school, about a month-and-a-half ago, and asked, ‘Mom, do I have to go? I’m black, and I’ll be a target.”

Though she generally disapproved of missing school, she allowed her daughter to skip the day. “I felt bad for her…I’ve never felt race has been a factor in our lives,” she said.

“It’s one thing to study Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” she added. “But to talk about feeling guilty because you are white?…These kids today are so far beyond it. It’s like they don’t see color.” The district’s program, she said,  is “going backwards.”

The New Trier program approached race from an exclusively left-wing perspective, in violation of district policy.

Seminars included: “The Truth about Ferguson: The Investigation into the Death of Michael Brown,” “Why Do I Have to Feel Guilty for Being White?”, and “Western Bias in Science.” One poster hung inside the school (above) quoted author Toni Morrison: “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”

At a school board meeting Monday, district officials spun the day as a success, though they admitted that attendance had only been “between 66% and 70%” of the student body of 4,200. Breitbart News learned that students were later told the day would not count as a full day for attendance purposes, since participation had been “like 50%.”

One parent at the meeting, who described herself as Hispanic, said she became alarmed when her daughter brought home a list of seminars.

“When she showed me the list of classes, I was not only baffled, but also concerned,” she said, citing seminars with names such as “To Pimp a Butterfly,” and content including a “Pyramid of Hate” on anti-Muslim prejudice. “Out of all these options, I could discern no diversity of options,” she added. The point, she said, seemed to be “to instill more angst than need be” in children. She took her daughter to a community service project instead.

Assistant Superintendent Tim Hayes defended the program as a way to make the public holiday “significant and meaningful,” and said the focus of the day had been to “champion” Dr. King’s legacy.

Vice President Greg Robitaille said there had been an equal number of “provocative” and “non-provocative” classs titles, and said his own children had come home from the school day “slightly more aware,” but not “brainwashed” or “radicalized.”

“The big shame, in my opinion, is we probably lost half the kids, [who] didn’t show up today,” Robitaille said.

Other board members praised the “wonderful day,” arguing that it had not imposed “one-sided lessons.” They lamented that many students had missed the keynote speech by author Isabel Wilkerson because of technical problems.

Two staff members and two students also defended the program. One, Spiro Bolos, discussed the seminar he had given, “TV Tokenism,” which criticized portrayals of minorities in media. Another, Michael Christensen, talked about her seminar, “Drawing Lines: Housing Segregation and Redlining in Chicagoland Neighborhoods.” The class apparently did not consider a variety of political views, though housing is a current topic of local political debate.

Two students, who had also led sessions during the day, also addressed the meeting. One, who taught a seminar called “What Is Your Privilege?”, described how students tossed pieces of paper into a recycling bin from their seats, with students in the back of the classroom experiencing disadvantage. Another, who led a session called “How Do We Talk About Race,” complained to the board that only four students had attended her session.

The New Trier Township High School District did not return requests for comment.


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