North Carolina Education Honchos Swapped Race-Essentialism Buzzwords To Avoid Public Pushback

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Chrissy Clark Education Reporter
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Staff members within North Carolina’s education administration swapped out “red-flag” buzzwords linked to race-essentialism, according to internal emails reviewed by the Daily Caller. The officials replaced certain terminology to avoid public scrutiny of critical race theory-inspired seminars. The correspondence was first obtained by a concerned parents organization.

The North Carolina Early Learning Network (NC-ELN) — which works hand-in-hand with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction — began developing sessions that provide “equitable, anti-racist, and culturally responsive early care” in November of 2020, according to internal NC-ELN emails obtained by No Left Turn in Education. North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction denies that it knew about the NC-ELN’s development of critical race theory-adjacent programming.

As “Early Education Equity” (E3) guidance and training was developed, NC-ELN staff attempted to nix “red flag” words such as “racial equity” from its guidance to avoid tipping off concerned citizens, according to emails dated June 24, 2021.

Terms like “equity” and “bias” were deemed good words, while “racial equity” was dumped for “cultural equity.” “All children and families” was suggested as an alternative to “people of color” and “narrow societal norms” was substituted for “whiteness.”

“[My colleague] asked me to check for any red flag words, for which we don’t really have a list but we sort of have an idea ‘whiteness, white supremacy, white-centered’ may raise a flag,” said NC-ELN employee Janet Sockwell to an equity program developer.

“[T]here likely will be some who are offended and if she uses terms like structural racism and anything related to CRT, it could come back to them,” Sockwell continued. “Don’t get me wrong. I agree with everything she says, I just am concerned about it.”

Sockwell also said in an email that Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Catherine Truitt affirmed “educational equity” as an appropriate phrase.

NC-ELN hosted “professional learning” sessions for educators statewide on March 17 and March 19, 2021, according to internal emails. The sessions focused on “addressing racial equity and culturally responsive practices in early childhood,” and the Department of Public Instruction was reportedly notified of the programming.

The department hired Dr. Iheoma Iruka, a research professor at the University of North Carolina focused on equity, to be the keynote speaker at NC-ELN’s “Preschool Pre-Conference Institute” for $1,000, according to an email from Sockwell. The Department of Public Instruction signed off on Iruka’s involvement, according to the agenda for the state’s 2021 “Exceptional Children Preschool Institute” focused on achieving educational equity.

Screenshot/No Left Turn in Education

Screenshot/No Left Turn in Education

No Left Turn in Education claims that the training seminar included a video on understanding privilege and a BuzzFeed quiz titled, “How Privileged Are You?” The Department of Public Instruction has since deleted direct links to these resources, according to the concerned parent organization.

Amid the NC-ELN’s equity push, the state attempted to contract University of North Carolina researchers to the tune of $7,096,080 for four years to create more racial equity programming for the Early Learning Network, according to a copy of the contract. The proposed contract took funding from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grant funds.

The proposed contract was brought to the State School Board of Education for a vote by Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Catherine Truitt on Jan. 5, 2022, and the board approved the contract on Jan. 6. According to NC-ELN internal emails, Truitt appeared to be in favor of signing the contract initially.

Following a batch of negative press coverage, the superintendent appears to have directed the NC-ELN to remove a litany of racial equity resources from the Department of Public Instruction’s website, according to emails. (RELATED: CRT Program Teaches Disabled Preschoolers That ‘Whiteness Affects Everything’)

NC-ELN staffers admitted in private emails that they took down web pages and videos on equity after pushback from an individual at the North Carolina State Board of Education meetings “expressed displeasure with DPI promoting racial equity training.”

“Our funder at DPI, in consultation with Catherine Truitt, requested we take down a few of our posted products related to race equity after they learned about this group of people circulating screen shots,” an email from NC-ELN director Sherri Williams reads.

Truitt alleged that the NC-ELN designed and executed equity work without consulting the Department of Public Instruction, according to a letter from the superintendent to Ayse Belger, the University of North Carolina researcher leading the equity partnership with NC-ELN.

No Left Turn in Education believes that Truitt “falsely claimed that [the Department of Public Instruction] was unaware of this material.”

“This pattern of deceit is unacceptable and shows the extreme measures education bureaucrats take to hide usage of taxpayer dollars in pushing race-based ideologies onto our most vulnerable kids,” said Nancy Andersen, president of No Left Turn in Education North Carolina Chapter. “North Carolina early literacy rates are abysmal, but the Office of Early Learning is focused on misdirecting funds for race-essentialism in pre-K.”

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction denied to the Daily Caller that it had any involvement in the NC-ELN’s equity contract and blamed the confusion on the department’s misuse of the Department of Public Instruction’s logo.

“The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction reaffirms that the Summer 2021 training in question was not part of the scope of the contract with NCDPI, but rather was created in response to a request from the field, which the Early Learning Network fulfilled without consulting NCDPI or allowing for NCDPI oversight,” a spokesperson for Truitt said. “[The Department of Public Instruction] leadership did not provide approval on these training materials, nor was NCDPI’s permission sought for use of the agency logo on materials. Furthermore, any outside agency that uses the Department’s logo without consent is asked to remove those documents immediately.”