Policy debates over curriculum often center on test scores and other student performance indicators. However, according to a recent lawsuit filed in federal court, curricular bias and indoctrination have reached shocking levels that raise serious constitutional concerns.
The lawsuit was filed by Fair Education Santa Barbara, whose members include parents and taxpayers, against the Santa Barbara Unified School District and Just Communities Central Coast (JCCC), a left-wing organization that provides “diversity,” “inclusivity,” and “unconscious bias” training to teachers and students.
The lawsuit (Fair Education Santa Barbara, Inc. v. Santa Barbara Unified School District, et al., Case No. 2:18-cv-10253, United States District Court for the Central District of California) charges that JCCC’s training, for which the school district contracted, “has created a racially hostile educational environment for many teachers and students.”
The JCCC curriculum is so biased against certain groups that, among other things, the lawsuit alleges it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, which thereby constitutes a violation of Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, since the defendants accept federal funding.
According to the plaintiff’s complaint: “JCCC’s curriculum and written materials attempt to indoctrinate staff and students with a warped view of the world where racism can only be perpetrated by ‘white people’ and where the success of students in so-called ‘privileged’ groups is due solely to their ‘unearned access to resources.’”
In contrast, Webster’s dictionary does not single out a particular race, but defines racism more objectively as “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior.”
Also, for “religious oppression,” “Christian people” are listed as a group targeting “all other” religious groups. The structure of the curriculum does not contemplate that Christians can be the targets of oppression, even though the Pew Research Center, for example, has found that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world.
Further, the lawsuit alleges: “Utilizing this ideological framework during the actual workshops and training sessions, JCCC physically separates participants into different racial groups, requiring all individuals that JCCC perceives to be ‘white’ to be segregated in a separate room to receive instruction that differs from all perceived ‘non-white’ participants.”
“In these racially segregated sessions, the ‘white’ participants are instructed that, whether they are conscious of it or not, all ‘white people’ are racist and collude to promote or perpetuate racism against non-whites.”
JCCC’s program administrator admitted in an interview with a local Santa Barbara radio station that racially segregated differing instruction takes place in its program.
The plaintiffs say they are bringing their case, “to help ensure that the Santa Barbara Unified School District (and its school board) provide every student, irrespective of race, ethnicity, culture, and sexual orientation, the opportunity to achieve his or her highest ability and potential.”
The fallout from JCCC’s training and curriculum has, alleges the lawsuit, been frightening. There have been numerous incidents reported of graffiti and racial epithets targeting white students.
Taxpayers should also be outraged by the lawsuit’s allegations on fiscal grounds, which charges the district with failing to put the training contract out to competitive bid. The District has paid JCCC more than $1 million since 2013, and just renewed its contract for another year, at a cost of nearly $300,000.
The suit also contends that at least 7 current and former school board members and administrators have conflicts of interest, allegedly working for either JCCC or its major donors.
Fair Education Santa Barbara says that it supports diversity training and instruction but points out that such instruction can be done without itself targeting particular groups. For example, the Santa Barbara Pathways Program run by UC Santa Barbara provides unconscious bias training without racial or religious bias.
In 2017, I wrote a book entitled The Corrupt Classroom, which detailed bias in America’s public schools. The Santa Barbara lawsuit reveals that the corruption about which I wrote in my book is continuing and is impacting teachers, students and parents.
Lance Izumi is the senior director of PRI’s Center for Education, and Koret Senior Fellow in Education Studies.