New Hampshire School District Pushes ‘White Privilege’ Training for Employees

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Learning for Justice

The Manchester School District in New Hampshire is urging its employees to take a “white privilege” course that calls “whiteness a pillar of white supremacy.”

The training, part of the district’s so-called “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” efforts, is based on a curriculum put together by “Learning for Justice,” which was founded by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

This curriculum is an update of a 1991 plan called “Teaching Tolerance.”

The “about” portion of the website states:

Learning for Justice seeks to uphold the mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center: to be a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements and advance the human rights of all people.

One lesson plan for K through second grade is called “Getting to Know Our Identities” and asks questions such as “What are my identities? What identities do I share with my family? What identities do I have that are different from my family?”

The New Hampshire Journal reported on the radical move by the school district:  

Part of the training includes a webinar entitled “What Is White Privilege, Really?” in which the instructor tells participants the goal of the training is to “expand our definition of white privilege as both personal and systemic, and to understand the function of whiteness as a pillar of white supremacy and power.”

Declaring all white employees “personally privileged” — even those who came from poverty or disadvantaged situations — is likely to be viewed as problematic, as is linking every person’s “whiteness” to “white supremacy.” But it is part of the “anti-racism” ideology the webinar instructors say they are promoting, an ideology popularized by the author Ibram X. Kendi and based on the premise that all white people are racists.

Additional MSD training materials include a paper from a Wellesley professor who declares that all men and white women are “oppressors” and that meritocracy — the idea that you have a job or accomplishments you’ve earned through work or talent — is a “myth.”

An article attacking former President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by left-wing activists is part of the curriculum.

The Journal asked the school district how this article applies to educating children and whether it was mandatory.

Manchester School District spokesperson Andrew Toland responded:

The training that was sent to the 21st Century Learning Centers staff on March 1, 2021, was part of a series of digital training sessions that had previously been made available to all Manchester School District staff. This particular training is not mandatory for any employee, and it has been clarified for 21st Century staff that this was not intended to be mandatory.

This training, among others, is designed to foster critical thinking about race and facilitate meaningful discussion amongst employees about the role of racism in our schools. The District embraces this process of critical thinking, not necessarily the ideas or opinions of individual authors.

“In January, the Board of School Committee passed a new District Equity policy, which strives to provide training opportunities that will help each employee to ‘develop the critical racial, ethnic, and cultural competence to understand the contexts in which they teach, work, and learn,’” Toland said.

“Regardless of the value of the training, NH Journal has obtained emails that indicate the white privilege training was not optional,” the article said:

“We have also put together a list of training for you to utilize to get a better understanding on how we can provide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to our students,” reads the March 1 email from Program Coordinator Liz Penn. “Each training has a deadline [emphasis added]. We (DEI committee) will also be doing small group check ins… Each school has their own tab to keep track of what needs to be completed.”

Ten days later, a March 11 email from Penn reminds employees to “make sure you are completing the DEI training and entering it into this spreadsheet. Our first couple of focus group meetings are coming up quickly so please make sure you have the first have of the training session complete by March 23rd!”

The Journal reported on March 15, after employees raised concerns about the mandatory training, Program Director Tom McGee sent out an email reversing course.

“I would like to ensure that you all are aware that the DEI training that has been shared out earlier this month is not mandatory,” McGee said. “We are looking for ways to educate on equity and we look forward to partnering with the chief equity officer when they join the MANSD teams.”

“While the question of whether teaching these ideas should be banned is debated in the statehouse, the immediate question for employees of the Manchester School District is whether they have to agree to embrace them in order to keep their jobs?” the Journal article concluded.

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