Parents At Elite Private School Fight Back Against ‘Cancel Culture’ They Say Has Infiltrated The Midwest

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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A coalition of parents at an elite Ohio private school are calling on the school’s leadership to address a “culture of intimidation” that has scared students and teachers into supporting a “progressive agenda,” or risk being academically and socially penalized.

Amy Gonzalez and Andrea Gross, the founder of the Pro-CA Coalition, told the Daily Caller that they enrolled their children in Columbus Academy because of its outstanding record for academic excellence, which comes at the price of nearly $30,000 per year in tuition. 

However, in the past two years, that record has been tarnished by “intimidation, bullying, and intolerance” stemming from “antiracist” initiatives the administration and faculty have spearheaded, the two women said. 

“This is the Midwest, the heartland, and cancel culture has arrived,” Gross said. “We’ve just seen a big change in the way the curriculum is going, and we feel that we are fighting a battle for the hearts and minds of our children.”

The two parents launched their group after a “civil disobedience walkout” in January, when they claim the school’s director of diversity and the head of the upper school, which consists of grades 9-12, told students to participate in an exercise where they walked to the school’s field house to show civil disobedience and screamed “silence is violence.” The two women told the Caller that students who weren’t participating in the walkout, which was held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, would be called racists. 

With faculty present at the exercise, students in the field house reportedly shouted “Malcolm X,” “Black Empowerment, and “You are racist,” the two women said.

Undated picture of Malcolm X (C), the leader of the Organization for the Afro-American unity. (STF/AFP via Getty Images)

Gonzelez and Gross said they demanded answers from the school, but didn’t receive meaningful responses. They weren’t the only parents with concerns, either. Soon, they began collecting sworn affidavits from parents and teachers detailing experiences at the school. The affidavits indicate that each individual who signed the document made the statement under oath. (RELATED: REPORT: Largest School District In North Carolina Urges Teachers To Ignore Parents’ Pushback And Teach ‘Antiracism’)

“There are kids so afraid to say anything, they feel they will be canceled by their friends or their teachers because they can’t speak freely,” Gonzalez said about a signed affidavit written on behalf of a student. “It’s not a good learning environment that cultivates critical thinking.”

One of the signed affidavits, dated Feb. 15, says that the school’s director of diversity and community life referred to the school’s history as “110 years of white supremacy” during a Zoom call held in July. “I was told on [the call], the Director of Diversity and Community Life stated we need to increase the black population of students and teachers at [Columbus Academy.] I was told the goal was to have no dominant race,” the document said.

The letter refers to the diversity officer’s claim that the school’s mascot, a Viking, should be removed because Vikings “were white and raped and pillaged.” 

In another letter, signed Feb. 17, a parent describes how their daughter “writes papers against her own beliefs and opinions in order to get a good grade from her teachers.” 

When the daughter, a sophomore, asked her teacher one day in class to show the conservative perspective on a topic being discussed so as to provide “the other side” of the issue, the teacher replied “you find it then,” according to the affidavit.

“I have been told by [student] that the Upper School teachers and faculty openly discuss their hatred for “Trump” in and out of class,” it continues.

Another student claimed that on the first day of school, an English teacher informed students that if any of them supported President Donald Trump, then the teacher preferred not knowing or else he didn’t believe he could speak with them.

Gonzalez and Gross said the school prioritized a narrow definition of diversity at the expense of students with backgrounds that don’t fit the administration’s vision, including neurodiverse students and Hispanic students.

Gross, who said her daughter has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), said the school has not made an effort to train teachers to recognize a learning difference, but “they have the money to spend on training our teachers on the history of police.” 

In an open letter to the school, the coalition notes an email the school’s diversity director allegedly sent to faculty in July containing a link to a page asking for donations to defund the police. In August, the school allegedly provided training to faculty that included materials by Ibram X. Kendi, who has been cited in numerous “antiracism” training sessions at public schools across the country.

“My child came home and asked about her Grandfather, who is a retired police officer,” one parent shared, according to the coalition letter. “My child asked if he did bad things to black people.”

An affidavit from another parent described the school’s lack of resources for students to learn about Hispanic-Americans, who are also underrepresented at the school, according to the document. 

So far, Gonzalez and Gross said they collected between 70 to 100 signed statements describing incidents involving speech or thought suppression at the school, and they plan on collecting more. Their group has grown to hundreds of parents, alumni, teachers, and students. But they also say they’ve received backlash.

“The level of hatred that has come toward Amy and I in particular . .  . I had to reach out to the board to make sure my youngest daughter is actually safe,” Gross told the Caller.

Both parents were able to read the signed affidavits in a virtual meeting with the school board, but said that weeks after confronting the school, it has yet to address their concerns. 

Columbus Academy told the Daily Caller in a statement that it “strives for an atmosphere of inclusivity and candor that welcomes diverse viewpoints” and was taking the concerns of “these two parents” seriously.

“The school emphatically believes that no student or faculty member in our community should feel marginalized for any reason. As such, the Board of Trustees has taken seriously and reviewed the concerns regarding our school environment from these two parents and has shared the conclusions of its review with our school community.”

Classroom desks sit socially-distanced ahead of the return of students on August 26, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Gonzalez and Gross said that unless school leadership addresses their concerns with substantial change, the reputation that made them enthusiastic about being part of the Columbus Academy community could be permanently damaged. 

“We need an atmosphere of true inclusion for all our students,” Gross said. “This is not a race thing, this is not a blue or red thing, this is a human thing. We are stripped down to political abstractions and immutable characteristics and we need all students to be valued. Academic excellence is a priority.”