North Carolina Public School Officials ‘Unlawfully’ Fired Professor For Opposing ‘Racially Divisive Ideology,’ Lawsuit Alleges


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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comment from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and Alliance Defending Freedom. 

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) “unlawfully” fired Dr. David Phillips from its Governor’s School in 2021 for opposing “racially divisive ideology,” a lawsuit filed by the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, who represents Phillips, alleged Monday.

The Governor’s School, a publicly funded summer program for advanced high school students, fired Phillips after he delivered “three optional seminars” which opposed “critical theory” and “the increasing bias and lack of viewpoint diversity in higher education,” ADF said in a press release. After the lectures, “a group of students and staff members reacted with open hostility, referencing race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion in their comments and questions,” ADF claimed.

Phillips reportedly stayed after the lecture to answer the questions and offered to meet the students at a later time, but was fired the day after the last seminar, according to ADF’s lawsuit. (RELATED: College Won’t Place Student Teaches At School That Prohibits The Teaching Of Critical Race Theory)

Critical theory, also known as Critical Race Theory, holds that America is systemically racist, and teaches people to consider social interactions in terms of race. Its adherents pursue antiracism by forgoing merit-based policies in favor of race-based policies.

“What happened to Dr. Phillips is contrary to everything the Governor’s School claims to promote. According to its own documents, the school wants students to ‘listen to the perspectives of others,’ and ‘become aware of a wide range of differing viewpoints and thinking,”‘ ADF Senior Counsel Hal Frampton told the DCNF in a statement. “But firing Dr. Phillips — a beloved teacher who attempted to foster intellectual diversity on campus — belies the school’s claims. The school should practice what it preaches and encourage debate on critical topics, not compel ideological conformity.”

Phillips taught at the Governor’s School for eight summers and was “well-respected” as an English professor, according to ADF. The legal organization alleged the school violated Phillips’ right to free speech by terminating his employment and acted in retaliation.

“Mr. Phillips was an employee of Governor’s School during summer 2021. The Department of Public Instruction maintains that it fully complied with all legal requirements. However, as this is a personnel matter, no additional information can be shared at this time,” an NCDPI spokeswoman told the DCNF.

Phillips and the Governor’s School did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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