July 22, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Shawnee Mission teacher shines light on divisive ‘diversity’ training

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A Shawnee Mission teacher has blown the doors wide open regarding the indoctrination her district is foisting on children in the system.

Writing in The Lion, an online publication of the Herzog Foundation, Caedran Sullivan, who has taught English in the SMSD for 15 years, says teachers, students, and parents arebeing manipulated and intimidated by a divisive ‘woke’ ideology that is creating a culture of contempt and disrespect.”

“Amidst a worsening teacher shortage that saw SMSD pay $3.5 million to out-of-state agencies to recruit and retain more educators, we are losing good teachers because of an imposed divisive rhetoric that does not inspire mutual goodwill,” Sullivan wrote. “In my school alone, three teacher-coaches left in March and recently, in one day, four more teachers said they are contemplating leaving the profession.”

Sullivan said SMSD is fostering a “toxic environment and requiring employees to attend Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) training and workshops centered around Critical Race Theory, including Black Lives Matter in the Classroom and Social Justice in the Classroom (using teachers’ ‘white privilege,’ ‘white supremacy’ and ‘de-colonizing our classrooms’ propaganda).

“There is repeated white shaming and a preoccupation with white people as the ‘oppressor,’ including staff field trips with a focus on ‘systemic racism.’ The white saviorism and virtue-signaling at DEI meetings is so condescending that many minorities and other staff members have stopped attending.”

Sullivan said teachers were informed at a staff meeting in April  (and on many other occasion) they should refer to students “by their preferred names and pronouns during the school day, but hide from the parents the fact that their minor children are transitioning at school. The district conceals the transgender policies from the public and will not release the DEI presentations we are compelled to watch.”

Moreover, she said, the administration and its legal staff ignore board policy to go after teachers who use a student’s legal name or “incorrect” pronouns.

“There is a strong anti-capitalism, anti-conservatism, and anti-American bias in the DEI curriculum, with an emphasis on ‘white fragility’ and ‘how to be antiracist,'” Sullivan wrote. “I have been in workshops where teachers were discussing how to incorporate The 1619 Project into their English curriculum and how to use Orwell’s book 1984 in class as propaganda against those of one political party.”

Moreover, she said, she has had to put up with being called horrible names by other staff.

“One teacher referred to me as a “Nazi” and “fascist” for disagreeing with her views,” she wrote. “There is no ideological diversity; there is no substantial counter-argument allowed. It is wreaking havoc on morale.

The Sentinel reached out to SMSD for comment on Sullivan’s article, and the response failed to address the issues she raised.

“It would not be appropriate for me to attempt to directly respond to an article written by one of our teachers during their non-work time,” SMSD Chief Communications Officer David Smith said via email. “If that person or any other individual is interested in filing a formal complaint concerning something they have experienced here in the district, our complaint process is available to them.”

Smith then goes on to suggest that Sullivan is lying.

“It is self-evident that her perspective does not reflect the experience of the vast majority of our staff,” he wrote. What I can do is to share with you what our actual work is around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”

However, Smith offers no proof of that “self-evident” assertion but simply spends several paragraphs describing the various “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging” programs the district is pushing — presumably to include the $400,000 Critical Race Theory curriculum the district purchased in 2021.

Indeed, another SMSD teacher, speaking on condition of anonymity, has provided the Sentinel with documentation that backs up many of her allegations.

In an emailed response, Sullivan blasted Smith’s assertions.

“The official SMSD response to my opinion piece in The Lion is anemic sleight-of-hand that does not address the issues,” she said. “The District says they foster a sense of ‘belonging,’ but those who reject the official ‘white oppressor’ narrative are ostracized and pressured to get on board. There is no ‘belonging’ for dissenting voices. 

“The District says “the vast majority of our staff” have a different experience than mine, but I am receiving numerous messages of loving support from staff, students, and parents across the district thanking me for speaking out. Most teachers are hesitant to go against the tide for fear of being ‘canceled.’ Like me, many others reject the sanctimonious lecturing and condescension inherent in the DEI message to people of color that only through a white person’s behavior can minorities find success. This divisive message of victimhood instills a horrible mindset in children, and it does immeasurable damage to our students.”

SMSD focuses on DEI and seemingly ignores low student achievement

While SMSD has been worrying about DEIB, they apparently have not been particularly concerned with how their students are doing academically.   

The district’s strategic plan gives lip service to academic preparation, saying, “Every student will achieve academic success…,” but its actions belie that objective.   State assessment results show proficiency in reading and math has declined since 2015, and more students are below grade level.

Proficiency in math dropped from 42% to 40%, while the portion of students below grade level jumped from 17% to 26%.  Results are even worse in reading (English Language Arts); proficiency fell from 52% to 44%, and the number below grade level went from 16% to 24%.  High school results are particularly alarming, with only 29% proficient in math and just 38% in reading.

Kansas Policy Institute and Sentinel CEO Dave Trabert says SMSD is deliberately pushing divisive propaganda that separates students from the family unit.

“A district that truly wants every student to achieve academic success would not waste time with DEIB and white supremacy indoctrination.  But the Shawnee Mission school board members and district leadership shrug off poor outcomes and go all-in on the propaganda.  They blithely deny pushing the tenets of critical race theory but pushing gender identity on kindergartners, spending $400,000 on Deep Equity training, and ignoring staff complaints about divisive behavior shows they are devoted to something other than academically preparing students for college and career.”


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