The first Black principal of Colleyville Heritage High School in Grapevine, Texas, has lost his job after a months-long battle with the school board, which accused him of teaching and promoting critical race theory (CRT) in his school.
Just a month after Dr. James Whitfield wrote a letter decrying the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, saying systemic racism was “alive and well” and that “education is the key to stomping out ignorance, hate, and systemic racism,” Stetson Clark, a former school board candidate at Grapevine-Colleyville High School, called for the principal’s firing.
“He is encouraging the disruption and destruction of our district,” Clark said, July 26, 2020, according to the Texas Tribune.
Whitfield received a disciplinary letter from the district a few weeks later and was placed on administrative leave soon after that. In late July, the board then recommended a proposal not to renew Whitfield's contract for the 2022-2023 school year.
In addition to Whitfield’s email condemning the deaths of Black folk, the mostly white Texas community, had issues with the fact that Whitfield has a white wife and his participation on a district-approved panel about diverse differences.
And even though the school district acknowledges that CRT was never taught in the school, these Karens and Brandons have elected to offer the principal a settlement in lieu of keeping him in his job.
Monday, the school board voted unanimously to fire him.
A joint statement from Whitfield and the school board gave the following rationale:
”Both the District and Dr. Whitfield each strongly believe they are in the right. However, each also agrees that the division in the community about this matter has impacted the education of the District’s students… The District and Dr. Whifield have mutually agreed to resolve their disputes.”
“Educators are fighting this battle. And it’s a battle that’s been manufactured,” Whitfield told NBC News’ Antonia Hylton about how he came to lose his job and how parents and students are responding to the decision.
“No teacher is teaching critical race theory in schools, but what they’ve termed to be critical race theory. Which are diverse books, which you’ve seen in Texas. A list of hundreds of books they want to have removed or investigated. And teachers are worried about what they’re bringing to their classrooms or the resources they’ve been given,” he tells NBC News.
Texas is one of the eight states with broad laws banning the teaching of CRT.
The irony of Whitfield’s case is that the majority of the community is in disagreement with the decision and believes it’s based on racism and discomfort with Whitfield himself.
The issue of CRT ended up being at the dead center of the recent Virginia gubernatorial election. A rallying cry of Virginia moms created a groundswell many are crediting with the win of Glenn Youngkin to the post.
But, digging in a bit more deeply, The Daily Beast found that several of most vehement Virginia’s anti-CRT groups had backing by lobbying firms, Koch groups, former Trump officials, and The Federalist Society.
When Whitfield was suspended from his job in September, several local Grapevine residents spoke up on his behalf.
“I grew up in the Jim Crow South, and what’s going on here is not particularly new. It’s an old playbook,” one resident, who said mentioned that she lived in the area for 10 years, said, according to the Daily Beast.
“But to beat it, we need to start being very clear about what’s OK and what’s not OK—or we’re going to continue being bullied by a reactionary minority.”
“It is not OK to make baseless accusations about what our schools are teaching, particularly when all you know about the topic is what’s been told by professional propagandists. It is not OK to demonstrate contempt for another human being by making salacious comments about his family… To the board: It is not OK to punish a respected educator for defending himself when you could not find the intestinal fortitude to defend him as you, yourself, should’ve done.”