A critical race theory advocate has connections to at least two top officials with the Department of Education, which promoted the activist’s radical nonprofit in a handbook intended to assist more than 13,000 public school districts.
A Department of Education spokesperson previously told Fox News it "was an error" to link to the Abolitionist Teaching Network. But the department has repeatedly ignored questions about why the radical group was included in the handbook in the first place and who added the link.
One of the officials, Deputy Education Secretary Cindy Marten, headed the San Diego school system when it paid the Abolitionist Teaching Network’s co-founder, Bettina Love, $11,000 for a speaking event, financial records and a copy of the agreement show.
Marten was not confirmed at the federal department until a month after its handbook was published in April, though she was nominated in February. But the head of the office that developed the Department of Education handbook, acting Assistant Secretary Donna Harris-Aikens, is also connected to Love.
The National Education Association, the largest teachers union, hosted Love as a speaker at a June 2020 event. At the time, Harris-Aikens served as a senior director for the NEA, according to her LinkedIn account.
Love was slotted as the keynote speaker for a "discussion on addressing anti-Blackness and achieving educational freedom," according to the NEA's promotion for the event.
The Abolitionist Teaching Network’s materials, including the guide the Department of Education linked to, incorporates language associated with critical race theory.
"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.
Love, in a webinar her group hosted, said: "I want us to be feared."
The Abolitionist Teaching Network, which Love co-chairs, switched its Twitter account to private after Fox News reported the group’s inclusion in the Department of Education handbook.
Neither Love nor the Abolitionist Teaching Network has responded to repeated requests for comment.
The San Diego Unified School District approved an $11,000 payment to Love’s business, Love Educational Services LLC, for the activist to serve as a keynote speaker at the Summer Principals' Institute in August 2020, a copy of the agreement shows.
"The focus is on developing equity-driven schools and classroom cultures where academics and social-emotional learning work in tandem to impact student academic and social-emotional success," an agenda item from a June 23, 2020 school board meeting states. "Dr. Love will discuss Abolitionist Teaching … and methods of abolitionists to demand and fight for an educational system and world where all students are thriving, not simply surviving."
Additionally, a San Diego elementary school purchased $256 worth of copies of Love’s book, "We Want To Do More Than Survive," a spreadsheet of purchase orders for the school system shows.
And at least one San Diego school incorporated Love’s teachings in its trainings for educators.
"Select staff will participate in a book study with Bettina Love’s book ‘Students need to thrive not survive,’ as a means to lead reform to breakdown oppressive systems and racial biases that live within the school system," the Millennial Tech Middle School’s plan for student achievement for the 2020-21 school year stated.
A description of Love's book on Amazon states: "She argues that the US educational system is maintained by and profits from the suffering of children of color."
The Department of Education published its handbook in April 2021. It linked to Love’s group, the Abolitionist Teaching Network, in a section discussing how public schools should consider students' race and social and emotional needs.
"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," a department spokesperson told Fox News hours after the first story was published.
The department has repeatedly ignored specific questions from Fox News and has not responded to repeated follow-up requests. The San Diego Unified School District did not respond to a request for comment.
Matt Wall contributed to this report.