Springfield Public Schools requires all staff to attend mandatory training on racial equity to become “anti-racist.” The district defines “anti-racism” as advocating for social, political and economic change, and it describes how to advocate for change against oppression and white supremacy. On behalf of educators in the district, Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) filed a federal lawsuit in the Western District of Missouri to stop Springfield Public Schools (SPS) from violating the First Amendment and requiring as a condition of employment that its educators commit to equity, become anti-racist educators, and affirm divisive and discriminatory programming that promotes treating individuals differently based on skin color.
SLF filed suit on behalf of educators who were forced to participate in a district-wide equity training program focused purely on racial identity, white supremacy, and systemic racism. In its lawsuit, SLF asks the court to halt Springfield Public Schools from violating the First Amendment rights of its employees.
In its mandatory equity training, the district demands that all staff become “anti-racist” educators and replace traditional education with race-based programming in the name of equity. What seems like a relatively benign cause – also called “critical race theory” and “culturally responsive teaching” – is actually code-speak for a much bigger and more dangerous picture: the practice of conditioning individuals to see each other’s skin color first and foremost, then pitting different racial groups against each other.
The district’s promotion and reinforcement of race essentialism is not only dangerous, but also unconstitutional.The First Amendment makes clear that the government cannot discriminate based on viewpoint, cause individual to self-censor, or force individuals to accept beliefs with which they do not agree. Unfortunately, that is exactly what SPS is doing.
For example, through its mandatory equity programming, the district requires staff to place themselves on an “oppression matrix” and discuss concepts like white supremacy and systemic racism in group settings. It declares that colorblindness is a form of white supremacy and demands that district teachers and staff explain how they will “debunk” alleged myths that white people allegedly tell. It forces staff to disclose personal information about their identities, personal viewpoints, and vulnerabilities with supervisors and peers. And the district has even handed out “agree” and “disagree” signs to staff to hold up during the training when the trainer reads statements aloud declaring the district’s commitment to equity —with explicit instructions not to disagree with what the district says.
Slide after slide, image after image, SPS promotes a view of race essentialism that divides Americans into opppressor and oppressed based solely on their skin color. SPS sets up a dichotomy between whites and non-white races that depicts whiteness as inherently racist and a tool of oppression.
After viewing these images, acknowledging their oppression, discussing white supremacy, and sharing personal views and identifying information, SPS directed staff to conclude the training by participating in an “Anti-Racist Solo Write.” SPS expected them to disclose the steps they plan to take “to become Anti-Racist” in conformance with the training’s lessons, implement those steps, and pass what they learn on to their students.