Mac Haddow led CRT listening session at Patriot High School

UPDATED: Critical Race Theory in Schools Discussed at 'Unsanctioned' Racial Social Justice Commission Members Town Hall

Citizens express varying thoughts on teaching black history in schools

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UPDATED: The Prince William County  Racial and Social Justice Commission member Mac Haddow from the Coles District held a town hall listening session in which he discussed Critical Race Theory in schools. The meeting was held at Patriot High School, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. Approximately 50 people attended.

RSJC members Ericka Trennick (Gainesville) and London Steverson (Brentsville) co-hosted but were less vocal in the discussion. 

UPDATED Oct. 7 at 10:53 p.m.- Was the Meeting Sanctioned?  

Chair Shantell Rock posted a press release, saying that the listening meeting was not an official RSJC meeting and was "not sanctioned."

“Prince William County - October 4, 2021 - The Racial and Social Justice Commission is charged with examining the state of racial and social justice for people of color in the areas of policing, the provision of government services, and public education.”

“In partnership with the Prince William School System, the Commission is charged with examining how the public school system’s policies impact children of color. The Commission is not responsible for promoting, reviewing, or discussing Critical Race Theory. Commissioners Mac Haddow, Erica Tredinnick, and London Steverson, appointed to the Racial and Social Justice Commission, will conduct a Town Hall meeting on October 5, 2021, to discuss Critical Race Theory.”

“This conversation is separate from the mission of the Racial and Social Justice Commission, and therefore, this is not a conversation sanctioned by the Commission. However, the Commission encourages all Commissioners to conduct town hall meetings to discuss with constituents their experience in education as it relates to the school system’s policies impacting children of color.”

Rock explained that “not sanctioned” means it was not a meeting of the RSJC, and she questions whether the meeting was advertised according to FOIA laws.

Haddow said the town hall would be run by Trennick and himself. When a third member was added, FOIA laws state it should have been publicly announced to other Commission members, they should have been invited and the announcement of the listening session should have been posted on the RSJC website.

In a phone interview, Thursday, Rock told Bristow Beat she  received the flyer from a constituent, Friday evening, so the town hall could not be advertised three days before the meeting as required. From her perspective: "we, the staff and me, were not properly notified."

Rock said she trusts Prince William County Schools is not teaching Critical Race Theory, and it is improper for a Commissioner to preach otherwise. 

“Loree Williams, the school board’s appointee to the Commission, and the School Board have stated that Critical Race Theory is not being taught in Prince William County Public Schools, and the Racial and Social Justice Commission respectively accept their position," Rock said in the release.

 VDOE, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, Superintendent of Virginia Schools James Lane, and Prince William County Schools Superintendent Dr. LaTanya McDade also say they are not teaching Critical Race Theory.

Haddow told Bristow Beat, Friday, that he felt the topic was fair game since citizens had spoken on the subject at the prior RSJC meeting and not only from the conservative point of view. He believe that other members invited citizens to speak on the topic. 

Rock confirms that. "They were not expecting to have counter-reactions." 

However, when she proposed holding "boots on the ground" listening sessions in April, Rock thought she had made it clear they were for "listening." She believes Haddow's town hall was "tainted" by his opinion.

Haddow lectured attendees, disputing that CRT was not being taught in schools before handing over the mic.

Haddow's presentation

Haddow began the meeting with a slide projected on the wall, reading:

Do not teach “American Exceptionalism.’”

Do not call the 9/11 attackers “TERRORISTS”

He asserted Virginia’s education system is adopting Critical Race Theory, and Culturally Responsive Teaching is a “Trojan horse” to indoctrinate teachers. 

Haddow referred to the school division’s Equity Statement as problematic, defining “equity” as having equal outcomes. 

He said this concerns him he has black grandchildren, and he wants them to have all the same opportunities as white children. He said he believes black children are perfectly capable of achieving on their merit so they do not need special treatment, nor should that treatment affect all students. 

A black woman in the audience said they cannot agree with his definition of “equity.”

“It does not mean the same outcome. [It means providing] what they need to be successful. It’s not even about race. I’m not sure why everyone is jumping up and down like it is about race. Whether you are blind….if you don’t eat meat.”

Haddow criticized the school board for not listening to its citizens. (The board will hear issues that are not on the agenda in the second half of Citizens' Time.) 

He criticized his board, saying members have a political agenda that is not evidence-based.  And Haddow said the majority of  his Commission is pushing a political agenda, even ignoring facts.

Citizen speakers expressed a range of views on the issue. Several were adamant that Critical Race Theory is an insidious threat to American democracy. They called it a “Marxist” indoctrination to teach people to hate country, hate democracy, and civil rights. They said Marxists “hate God." Richard Delgado said “equity” is a “sophisticated euphonism” for “a cascade of Marxism.”

“If you don’t know what it [Critical Race Theory] is you don’t know what it isn’t either,” countered Richard Jessie, husband of Lillie Jessie. “What I want taught is the truth”

Harry Wiggins, former President of the Prince William Democrats, said Critical Race Theory is an examination of “institutional and systemic racism.” It looks at policies such as “red-lining,” which were not so long ago.

Don Goggins said that Critical Race Theory is “Too complicated a subject for our young people can try to digest.”

Francis Robyn is a former Caribbean, now United States citizen, Western Prince William resident, mother, and community outreach leader. She advocated that the schools teach honestly. “The truth about American history is brutal; it’s hard to process.” She disagreed that teaching the ugliness would pit black and white students against each other. Rather it would help them understand each other better. 

Many black parents said when history is taught in a Euro-centric way, black students lose out. They are not advocating that Africans always be betrayed as the oppressed; actually, many found that to be overdone in the schools that focus on slavery. 

One black man said gangs use the message that black people cannot succeed in America as a recruitment tool.

A young white veteran emphasized that culturally sensitive ideas have helped him to evolve. He learned them serving in the middle east where he gained compassion for Muslims.

He said in Mississippi people still live in shacks. They are not learning history the same way children are in Virginia.

A Battlefield High School senior named Abdula said such language is respectful to Muslims. “A culturally aware curriculum is different than Critical Race Theory.”

He said PWCS should work to close the student achievement gap. He asked that the school division apply a proven methodology.

The meeting remained civil. 

Rock told Bristow Beat in the phone interview that she and other Commissioners have integrity and won't be "derailed" by Haddow's political games.

“We all don’t care, but at the end of the day I want you to know that we have integrity," she said. We will not argue with them.” “not engaging in any back and forth with them.”

“I have a great group of commissioners and we are going to make sure our report is done indecency and in order.”

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