The Biden administration has admitted the Department of Education made an “error” after Fox News revealed that the DOE promoted a radical handbook from the Abolitionist Teaching Network as part of its COVID-19 school reopening guidance. The Fox News report added that the ATN instructs teachers to “disrupt whiteness” and that an ATN founder sees it as her mission to “trouble [white teachers’] internalized White supremacy and anti-Blackness.”
The ATN handbook, titled “Guide for Racial Justice & Abolitionist Social and Emotional Learning,” is linked in the Biden administration’s Department of Education “Ed COVID-19 Handbook” which is designed to guide teachers in “reopening safely and meeting all students’ needs.”
The guide promotes the “historic American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP),” and provides “resources” to schools looking to spend the $122 billion in ARPA funds earmarked for public schools to help correct the “disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, English learners, students who are migratory, students experiencing homelessness, students in correctional facilities, and students in foster care”
Part of that mission, it seems, is to introduce teachers to radical educational materials, including the guide for “abolitionist teachers,” whom the handbook defines as educators looking to “[b]uild a school culture that engages in healing and advocacy.” That mission, the ART says, “requires a commitment to learning from students, families, and educators who disrupt Whiteness and other forms of oppression.”
“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, per Fox News. “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.
ATN has made headlines before. According to a previous Fox News report, a Biden Department of Education deputy, Cindy Marten, formerly of the Unified San Diego School District, welcomed one of ATN’s co-founders, Bettina Love, to give a “diversity training seminar,” while she served as San Diego school superintendent.
In that seminar, Bettina Love reportedly “said public schools didn’t see Black people as humans, were guilty of systemic ‘anti-Blackness,’ and ‘spirit murder babies.’” According to Christopher Rufo, who tracks “anti-racism” training nationwide, Love defines “Spirit murder” as the concept that public schools “murder the souls of Black children every day through systemic, institutionalized, anti-Black, state-sanctioned violence.”
In reference to ART in its materials, the Department of Education notes that “[s]chools 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,” and links to ART’s handbook.
Hours after Fox News published their report, the DOE admitted that “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.”
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