The Biden administration said it was an error to promote a radical group that advocated for educators to “disrupt Whiteness and other forms of oppression” – three months after the Department of Education first included the link in a handbook made available to more than 13,000 school districts.
A Fox News story published Wednesday highlighted the Abolitionist Teaching Network’s inclusion in a Department of Education handbook intended to help public schools reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic and spend funding received through the American Rescue Plan. The article also showcased radical rhetoric the network and its board members pushed that fall in line with critical race theory teachings.
“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 spokesperson told Fox News hours after the first story was published.
Fox News repeatedly requested comment ahead of publication. The department did not answer numerous questions asked, such as why a link to the Abolitionist Teaching Network was included or how it became aware of the group.
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The Department of Education did not immediately respond to followup questions and did not explain how the “error” occurred or if anyone was disciplined. It’s unclear whether it will issue new guidance.
It’s also unclear why the link was first included in the Department of Education’s guidance, but Deputy Education Secretary Cindy Marten, while serving as the superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, hosted one of the network’s co-founders, Fox News previously reported.
Marten gave a glowing introduction in September 2020 for Bettina Love, who went on to conduct a training for principals and managers, Fox News reported. Love said schools were anti-Black and didn’t see Black people as humans.
She also discussed how schools “spirit murder” Black students, a phrase frequently used by the Abolitionist Teaching Network.
The group’s material, including the guide the Department of Education promoted, includes language often associated with critical race theory, though the phrase itself isn’t used.
“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 network states in the guide.
The Department of Education promoted the Abolitionist Teaching Network in a section discussing how schools should consider race and social and emotional learning.
The Department of Education was provided with $122 billion through the American Rescue Plan. That funding would be distributed to state agencies, which would then pass down a portion to local school systems. The local agencies must spend 20% of the funding to address learning loss through programs that consider “students’ academic, social, and emotional needs,” the rescue plan states.
The department’s handbook notes: “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.”
Yet the Abolitionist Teaching Network’s guide the department promoted states 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.
The Abolitionist Teaching Network did not immediately respond to a request for comment.