Image Credit: Parent’s Choice Tennessee
The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
Larry Crain, Attorney for plaintiffs Parents’ Choice Tennessee who are suing the Williamson County Board of Education, argued on Friday that the Defendant’s motion to dismiss should be denied in part because the state’s “Divisive Concepts” appeals process is flawed.
Attorney for WCS, Lisa Carson, argued on Friday that Parents’ Choice had not exhausted all administrative options before bringing grievances to the court and that they had ignored state law that requires complainants to “file a complaint with the LEA or public charter school in which the allegation arose.”
Judge Michael Binkley appeared to side with Carson stating, “I have to follow what the law says. I can’t just make it up as I go.”
Trisha Lucente, speaking with The Tennessee Conservative yesterday on behalf of Parents’ Choice, said that as plaintiffs, part of their response to this allegation is that the administrative process is biased because all complaints go to Penny Schwinn who is the final arbiter under the state’s appeal process. “And she’s the one that issued waivers for Wit & Wisdom,” said Lucente.
Lucente said that both she and her husband James, and other plaintiffs spoke to the principals of their children’s schools, and have opted their children out of using the materials. The Lucentes have presented their concerns before the WCS board of education on several occasions and Trisha Lucente has written each of the school board members multiple times about the Wit & Wisdom curriculum.
Crain also argued that exhaustion of administrative remedies is ineffective because the damage is being done on a daily basis and the complaint process can take a total of approximately 335 days from start to finish.
Parents’ Choice is suing the Williamson County Board of Education, along with Superintendent Jason Golden, Assistant Superintendent Dave Allen, and State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn alleging that a language arts curriculum known as Wit & Wisdom is “replete with age-inappropriate materials which promote a skewed and racist view of history and portrays one race as inherently superior to another, or inherently privileged and oppressive.” Such teaching is expressly prohibited by Tennessee law which bans the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT.)
According to Crain, Great Minds – publisher of Wit & Wisdom – uses a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) framework which is guided by, and directly adopted from an educational resource known as The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), CASEL uses Social Emotional Learning as part of its admitted goal to train vulnerable students to become social justice activists.
Great Minds adopted CASEL’s framework for SEL and openly explains how it did so in a document called, “The CASEL Framework in Action: How Wit & Wisdom Integrates Social, Emotional and Academic Learning”, by Elizabeth Bailey, Hailey Basiouny, Nora Graham, Melissa Thompson, and Margaret Wilson.
In an interview that was published on the Williamson County Schools website, from May, 2021, Superintendent Golden was asked the question, “Does Wit and Wisdom contain critical race theory?”
Golden stated, “WCS curriculum leaders have found no efforts within Wit and Wisdom to teach critical race theory or any material that illegally teaches that an individual, by virtue of their race or sex is inherently privileged or that any individual by virtue of their race or sex bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex, etc. However, the Commissioner of Education is charged with determining any violation of this legislation and has ultimate responsibility for making that determination with all curriculum.”
Binkley stated on Friday that he would be issuing his decision at a later date. “I know this is an emotional issue for a lot of folks, and I get that, “ he said.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at email@example.com.