By: Marc A. Scaringi
Camp Hill, Pa – On Oct. 22, 2021, PennLive published an article entitled, “A new battleground: Pa. school board races mirror national partisan clashes.” The article promotes the narrative that local parents, who are concerned that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is being introduced into our children’s schools, do so because we’re caught up in national politics, that we do not understand what CRT is and mistakenly think it’s being introduced into our schools.
The reporter even tries to equate what concerned parents are doing in the Camp Hill School District (CHSD) to “Nazis.” She writes, “School board meetings at locations across the country are now being patrolled by state and local police. They’ve been disrupted by incidents involving assaults, threats and even Nazi salutes.” However, our Camp Hill parent group has spoken at several school board meetings and conducted themselves in a professional and peaceful manner. There were no police present. No Nazi salutes. The only insults uttered were against me.
Here’s the real story.
The Democratic candidates for the Camp Hill School Board, Karen Mallah, Melanie Gurgiolo and Josceylon Buchs, claim they do not support the introduction of CRT into the CHSD curriculum, policies and practices. That’s demonstrably false as to Mallah and Gurgiolo. Both were members of the Equity Advocacy Council (EAC). The EAC meeting minutes reveal the members intended to incorporate CRT into the CHSD. I am not talking about CRT as it is taught in law school. I am talking about CRT as it is taught in non-law school academic settings and its various derivatives including Anti-Racism, Intersectionality, Transformational Social & Emotional Learning, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).
Let’s take a look at some examples taken directly from the EAC meeting minutes.
EAC looked to Dr. Bettina Love for guidance. Dr. Love’s guidebook for teachers implores them to “disrupt Whiteness and other forms of oppression,” to embody the spirit of Black Lives Matter, and to be subjected to anti-racist therapy to purge them of their inherent bias. (Despite the denials of Mallah and Gurgiolo EAC urged the CHSD to do “unconscious bias” training for the teachers and administrators and the administration agreed and was planning to do that). Dr. Love demands that teachers be evaluated based upon their dedication to the “pursuit of Black, Brown and Indigenous Liberation.” Dr. Love calls CRT her North Star. She claims our schools “spirit murder” minority children and to stop it we must train teachers in CRT, and that CRT should be used to resist, dismantle and destroy whiteness. She said, “If you don’t recognize that White supremacy is in everything we do, then we got a problem. I want us to be feared.” She promotes the re-segregation of our schools claiming the black children should only be taught by black teachers.
Dr. Love promotes “active anti-racism” as “the most important step” teachers can take. Anti-Racism was developed by Ibram X. Kendi, an admirer of CRT. It rejects race-neutral laws and calls for our laws and institutions to discriminate against whites in favor of blacks.
EAC was committed to the study of Elena Aguilar’s book, “Coaching for Equity.” Chapter 3 is entitled, “How to Understand Race, Racism, and White Supremacy.” Ms. Aguilar coaches teachers to confront a colleague with a Trump sticker on his truck, which she describes as “a message of hatred and exclusion” that “harms children” and as “racism.”
EAC intended to consult with Dr. Nikole Hollins-Sims. She claims “White privilege” is societal privileges that afford [white] people opportunities whether earned or not,” that we all have “bias, privilege, and power” but “whites have it to greater degrees.” She said that Dena Simmons is, “one of the key researchers that I follow around SEL…” Simmons wrote, “Whiteness will do whatever is necessary to protect its power. People will die of whiteness before giving it up. The irrational worship of whiteness will continue to keep us back.”
EAC planned to use NYU’s Culturally Responsive Curriculum Scorecard, which is rooted in the scholarship of Gloria Ladson-Billings, a CRT scholar and one of the first to apply CRT to education. EAC planned to use, as a curriculum resource, NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and Transformation of Schools, whose director talks about “the elegant and beautiful concepts that come from CRT” and about how he is “using CRT to change schools.”
EAC heard from Tricia Steiner who urged it to use data in “intersectional ways.” Intersectionality was developed by Kimberle Crenshaw, one of the co-founders of CRT. Crenshaw believes discrimination remains because of the “stubborn endurance of the structures of white dominance” and has described America as suffering from a “racist, rape culture,” that has “whiteness at its core.” Crenshaw just finished teaching the “CRT Summer School 2021,” where she taught K-12 teachers and high school students among others on “Unleashing the Power of CRT.”
An EAC member recommended the CHSD use the “anti-racism” resources provided by the University of Pittsburgh. Its website sets forth its “Anti-Racism Principles.” Addressing White people it states, “You will have to confront anti-Black racism! Courage: Facing racism, white privilege, and white supremacy is hard. Reckoning with shame, blame, guilt, and anger takes courage and vulnerability.” He also wanted to bring in Stephanie A. Jirard to speak.
Ms. Jirard writes, “Similarly, the twin cage of the colonized mind is the heteronormative mind. Look around institutions of power and the role models are often cis (born that way) identified men and women with little to no diversity of gender expression and gender identity.” Ms. Jirard also writes, “One way to decisnormatize the academic space in the classroom is by…taking attendance…[by] hand[ing] out a blank piece of paper and ask[ing] students to write their names and pronouns.” Ms. Jirard writes, “And, yes, critical race theory may crystalize what tactics will work for you as you engage in social equity work.”
The evidence is overwhelming that Mallah and Gurgiolo and the other members of EAC were attempting to introduce CRT into the CHSD. Some concerned parents pushed back and some liberal, Democratic parents in the community got angry and hurled insults at us and me, in particular, during school board meetings and on social media. That is what has caused the division in our community, not some anonymous letter.
Those of us who oppose the election of these three Democratic School Board candidates do so not because of national politics, animadversions on Fox News or alleged dog whistles from former President Donald J. Trump. We do so because we oppose what these candidates stand for. And, if these candidates win, this will cause more division in our community. Now with real power these candidates can do real harm to our children by further indoctrinating them in CRT.
Mr. Scaringi is an attorney and resident of Camp Hill with four children attending the Camp Hill School District