The past few days have been a whirlwind for James Whitfield.
Whitfield, the very first black principal of Colleyville Heritage High School, in Colleyville, Texas, waged a months-long battle with community members over critical breed theory, which despite fear of the far right, recognizes the country’s long history of racism. and the resulting inequity that is factored into policy development.
Whitfield’s battle dates back to a 2020 letter he sent to parents regarding the murder of George Floyd, in which he wrote that systemic racism is “alive and well.” He only received support for the letter until a year later at a school board open forum on July 26, when a former school board candidate called systemic racism a conspiracy theory and called out systemic racism. accused Whitfield of promoting critical race theory. He then called for Whitfield’s sacking, which was met with cheers from the crowd.
A few weeks after the July 26 meeting, the school district sent Whitfield a disciplinary letter and he was placed on administrative leave on August 30. It all came to a head on Monday night when the majority white school board voted unanimously not to renew Whitfield’s contract for the next school year, citing gaps in communication, insubordination, disrespect for board policies, disregard of professional conduct, division of the community and failure to maintain effective relationships with the community.
A representative of the school district, however, did not provide any specific examples of the alleged behavior. And through his attorney, Whitfield said he couldn’t comment on something he had no knowledge of.
Controversy over critical race theory has been stirring the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District for months. Shannon Braun, a school board member who has argued that critical race theory should not be taught in schools, received national attention earlier this year when her brother, Chip Gaines of Upper Fixator fame, donated $ 1,000 to his campaign. In a statement at the time, the district said its schools do not teach critical race theory. Yet members of the public GCISD Parents For Strong Schools Facebook group regularly post articles on anti-critical racial theory.
Whitfield told BuzzFeed News that people shouldn’t get caught up in the critical “battle” of racial theory because it isn’t even taught in public schools.
âWhat they’re attacking is anything that looks like an inclusive, fair and welcoming environment that celebrates diversity,â Whitfield said. âThat’s what the attack is about. While they don’t want to talk about systemic racism, they don’t want to recognize that it is one thing.
âBasically their actions and what they do to educators of color, like myself and other educators, support systemic racism, but it’s like they can’t see beyond their agenda. And their agenda is set on anything that disrupts public education, which is what this group is supposed to do.
Whitfield has his supporters, however. Ahead of Monday night’s vote, dozens of students, parents and community members spoke out in favor of his reinstatement as principal, and some school board members even regretted letting the situation unfold. degrade.
School board member Coley Canter asked her children to learn from her mistakes for not speaking up when Whitfield was “unfairly attacked”. Still, she and the other six board members voted not to renew Whitfield’s contract. Whitfield called his vote “disappointing”.
âShe even came to me before the meeting and gave me a hug and said, ‘Hey, I’m so sorry. You know I love you and I’m going to let everyone know how I feel about you tonight, âWhitfield said.
Canter told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that she could not comment on the situation. The president of the school board did not respond to a request for comment.
Whitfield said that based on what people in the community are saying he is their “biggest fear”.
âI think I was the quintessential bogeyman for them,â Whitfield said. âIt really made it easier for them depending on my race and what I aspire to be as an educator. And it’s really easy for them to instill fear in people who have no idea who I am.
Monday’s vote was just the first part of a two-step system. Whitfield will now have the chance to tell the council his side of the story.
In a statement, the district said it was working “cautiously” to “follow proper procedures and laws regarding the proposed non-renewal of an employee’s contract.”
“GCISD remains focused on educating every child in our exceptional school district pending Dr. Whitfield’s decision as to whether he will request a board hearing,” the statement added.
Whitfield said he wanted to get back to the students.
âI got caught in other people’s agendas,â he said. âMy only goal is to serve the children and ensure that every student who walks these halls has access to a great education. They feel celebrated, they feel welcomed every day, they feel nourished. They have the opportunity to grow. This is what I hope we can start over because I think this is what we are missing in this whole thing.