The Biden administration's guidance for school reopening promoted a radical activist group’s handbook that advocates for educators to "disrupt Whiteness and other forms of oppression."
The Department of Education linked to the Abolitionist Teaching Network’s "Guide for Racial Justice & Abolitionist Social and Emotional Learning" in its handbook intended to help schools reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic and recommend how they should spend billions of dollars they collectively received through the American Rescue Plan.
The Abolitionist Teaching Network’s website includes links to various materials and media that include language often associated with critical race theory, though the group avoids using the exact phrase.
"Abolitionist Teachers" should "[b]uild a school culture that engages in healing and advocacy. This requires a commitment to learning from students, families, and educators who disrupt Whiteness and other forms of oppression," the group states in its guide.
Critical race theory advocates have argued that the doctrine is not being taught in public schools and that opponents’ complaints are overwrought. But a number of the Abolitionist Teaching Network’s board members and associated activists are current or former educators who push for race-related reform in public schools.
Abolitionist Teaching Network follows CRT dogma
While the Abolitionist Teaching Network’s mission statement is vague, its rhetoric elsewhere indicates that it aims to overhaul schools to prioritize racial awareness.
"Abolitionist Teaching Network's mission is to develop and support those in the struggle for educational freedom utilizing the intellectual work and direct action of Abolitionists in many forms," the group’s website states.
But in the materials referenced by the Department of Education, the group outlines how "Abolitionist Teachers" should guide students toward "Abolitionist" social and emotional learning.
In addition to finding educators committed to disrupting Whiteness, the guide states that teachers should remove "all punitive or disciplinary practices that spirit murder Black, Brown, and Indigenous children."
The guide notes that social and emotional learning "can be a covert form of policing used to punish, criminalize, and control Black, Brown, and Indigenous children." It also states that the standards for such learning are "are rooted in Eurocentric norms" and don't "empower, love, affirm, or free" those children.
Social and emotional learning is essentially how people develop identities, emotional management and various social and interpersonal skills, according to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.
The Abolitionist Teaching Network’s guide also lists abolitionist teachers’ "demands," which include "[f]ree, antiracist therapy for White educators and support staff." Additionally, it states that teaching and learning standards, as well as teacher evaluations, should be "grounded in the pursuit of Black, Brown, and Indigenous liberation, criticality, excellence, and joy."
The network "is dedicated to not creating new schools or reimagining schools, but destroying schools that do nothing but harm Black and brown children," co-founder Bettina Love said during a welcome webinar.
Love also noted that the network would "create a national database of antiracist school counselors, therapists and lawyers." She said her group planned to pay its "activists in residence" to travel around the country and "go into schools or communities and do the work of dismantling."
"If you don’t recognize that White supremacy is in everything we do, then we got a problem," Love, who also chairs the board of directors, said. "I want us to be feared."
Another co-founder and fellow board member, Brandelyn Tosolt, described herself as an "educator of White teachers." She said during the webinar that she has a "significant history" of "trying to help other White teachers trouble their internalized White supremacy and anti-Blackness."
The Abolitionist Teaching Network started only in 2020, according to its LinkedIn page. It’s unclear why it was linked in the Department of Education’s guidance, though Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, while serving as the superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, hosted Love, Fox News previously reported.
As first reported by Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher Rufo and confirmed by Fox News, Love conducted diversity training for managers and principals in September 2020. During this training, Love said schools didn't see Black people as humans and were anti-Black. Love also said schools "spirit murder" Black students.
"Spirit murder" is "a slow death, a death of the spirit, a death that is built on racism and intended to reduce, humiliate, and destroy people of color," Love wrote in a 2019 article.
Marten gave Love a glowing introduction for the diversity training, Fox News previously reported.
Biden admin pushes equity, promotes radical group
The American Rescue Plan provided $122 billion for the Department of Education to distribute to state agencies, which would subsequently disburse funding to local school systems. The local education agencies must use at least 20% of the provided funding to address learning loss through programs that consider "students’ academic, social, and emotional needs," the rescue plan states.
The Department of Education's handbook, which guides local school systems on how to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic, hyperlinks to the Abolitionist Teaching Network’s guidance in one section.
"Schools are microcosms of society; therefore, culturally responsive practices [and] intentional conversations related to race and social emotional learning … are the foundation for participating in a democracy and should be anchor tenets in building a schoolwide system of educational opportunity," the handbook states, with a portion hyperlinked to the Abolitionist Teaching Network.
The handbook’s introduction notes that schools now have the funding to assist students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic "and for whom the pandemic exacerbated pre-existing inequities."
"A districtwide or schoolwide approach … that is responsive to the trauma of COVID-19 and grounds itself in equity can help all students feel seen and valued," the handbook continues. "It is important for educators to recognize that social and emotional competencies can be expressed differently across cultures, especially considering that young students of color are living through, witnessing, and making sense of historic moments in American history and their place in it."
Hours after publication, a Department of Education spokesman told Fox News: "The Department does not endorse the recommendations of this group, nor do they reflect our policy positions. It was an error in a lengthy document to include this citation."
Fox News had repeatedly asked for comment ahead of publication. The Abolitionist Teaching Network has not responded to requests for comment.