Report: Williamson County Schools Teaming Up with Leftist Southern Poverty Law Center 

Williamson County Schools will send teachers to a series of workshops in Franklin this coming May that is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to a source.

Those workshops, called Teaching Tolerance, are scheduled for May 3 and May 4 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Franklin, according to

The event’s website clearly states that Teaching Tolerance is “a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

“Social Justice 101” is one of the scheduled topics.

The move is seen as further evidence that Williamson County Schools superintendent Mike Looney, who created and launched a series of videos titled Williamson County Schools Cultural Competency Series that promote the concept of “white privilege” and the anti-American exceptionalism “privilege theory”–now required viewing by all teachers in the system during in-service training, has his own educational agenda.

The Teaching Tolerance project has a full time staff of 20 who are dedicated to teaching teachers about left wing views of America that are inconsistent with Gov. Bill Lee’s statement on March 4 at his State of the State address that Tennessee public schools will teach students “unapologetic American exceptionalism.”

The project’s website notes that “Teaching Tolerance Educator Grants support educators who embrace and embed anti-bias principles throughout their schools. These grants, ranging from $500-$10,000, support projects that promote affirming school climates and educate youth to thrive in a diverse democracy.”

The grants fund projects on three levels: school, classroom and district.

School- and District-Level
These projects will focus on improving school climate, responding to and preventing incidents of hate, or embedding the concepts found in the Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards into the school- or district-wide curriculum.

These projects may also focus on improving teachers’ capacities to adopt the practices articulated in Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education and in our school climate resources, or to promote dialogue among school and district community members about anti-bias issues at school.

These grants will help teachers promote empathy and kindness, positive identity development, perspective taking, critical thinking about injustice and collective action.

These projects offer teachers the resources necessary to create safe and welcoming classrooms that reflect the outcomes described in the Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards. Preference is given to projects that emphasize student action and promote student voice.

It is not known whether the Southern Poverty Law Center financially supported the participation of Williamson County Schools teachers in the May 3-May 4 workshop in Franklin with “Teaching Tolerance Educator Grants” to Williamson County Schools, individual schools within the school system, or individual teachers within the school system.

As The Tennessee Star,, and several other news outlets have reported, commentators describe the SPLC as “a hate group on the left” that smears individuals and groups whose politics don’t align with their left-wing ideologies. The SPLC attaches labels such as “racist,” “white supremacist” and “extremist” to people and groups who don’t deserve them.

The SPLC event’s website describes the workshop as an interactive workshop to help teachers “implement anti-bias instruction in their classrooms.”

According to the source, a teacher in Williamson County Schools who requested anonymity, the school district will send a number of teachers to the SPLC seminar, including five from one high school alone.

“What’s worse, when I voiced concern to one of our principals, they were not even aware of what the SPLC was about,” the teacher told The Star.

“Scary stuff.”

School system spokeswoman Carol Birdsong did not return The Star’s request for comment Monday evening, nor did Williamson County Schools high school principals at Centennial High, Franklin High, and Brentwood High, or middle school principals at Heritage Middle and Mill Creek Middle.

Unfair Targets?

Dennis Prager, an SPLC target, writing for, said “all the SPLC does is politicize, and thereby trivialize, the fight against racism and other evils.”

“Any organization that labels Ayaan Hirsi Ali — the extraordinary Somali-American woman who devotes her life to fighting for oppressed women, especially in the Islamic world — an ‘extremist,’ as the SPLC has done, is not a moral organization,” Prager wrote.

“No wonder it just agreed to pay Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz $3.4 million and issued a retraction for smearing him as an ‘anti-Muslim extremist.’”

Writing for The Washington Post, Marc A. Thiessen, said the SPLC smears good people with false charges of bigotry.

“The SPLC is a once-storied organization that did important work filing civil rights lawsuits against the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s,” Thiessen wrote.

“But it has become a caricature of itself, labeling virtually anyone who does not fall in line with its left-wing ideology an ‘extremist’ or ‘hate group.’”

Thiessen went on to list people the SPLC has unfairly tarnished as dangerous including The Alliance Defending Freedom, which he said “is a respected organization of conservative lawyers dedicated to defending religious liberty.”

The SPLC also considers the Family Research Council and Ben Carson “as moral equivalents of the Klan” and has thus lost its integrity and credibility.

‘White Privilege’

The Star’s anonymous source also spoke about the “white privilege” videos that school district officials have forced teachers to watch.

“Most teachers were appalled by this presentation [of ‘white privilege’ in the Williamson County Schools Cultural Competency Series: Module 3]. It was shown county-wide, at all schools, all grade levels, and Cultural Competency part 4 is coming soon,” the source said. (emphasis added)

“I understand Looney’s desire that all students are treated equally, but this is absolutely the wrong vehicle to get that done.

“It is being force fed.  Principal hires are often quota hires also, so if there is privilege in the county, it is definitely better to be a woman or minority to get hired or promoted,” the source added.

As The Star reported, Williamson County School System officials recently made teachers watch a video that tried to indoctrinate them on how to teach students about “white privilege.”

People who appeared in the video discussed social justice causes, the perks white males supposedly have that others do not, America’s supposed dysfunctional history, and how unfair it all is.

As reported, Williamson County Schools officials had the ultimate power to approve an In-service “white privilege” training curriculum for their teachers last month, said a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education.

But that’s inconsistent with the TDOE’s standards and practices on In-service teacher training, as specified on that department’s website.

The Williamson County School System is evidently serious about prioritizing their In-Service teacher training, so much so they spent 22 percent more on it for this 2018-19 school year versus the prior one.

According to the school system’s budget, the school system spent $689,989 on their In-Service/Staff Development training this year.

For the 2017-18 school year administrators budgeted $564,508.

This is a 57 percent increase over what got budgeted in the 2013-14 school year, $439,847.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]







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15 Thoughts to “Report: Williamson County Schools Teaming Up with Leftist Southern Poverty Law Center ”

  1. Derrick

    So I see this is a censored sight! You only post comments that you like 😂🤣

  2. Clay

    I’m glad my son didn’t have to go to Williamson Co. schools, if he did I would have to consider pulling him out. Why are people not filling the halls of the next school board meeting?
    Wake up people, we don’t need people like that trying to indoctrinate our children.

  3. Wolf Woman

    Any organized pushback from concerned Williamson County citizens? Doesn’t seem like it. If you don’t use your voice, you’ll lose your voice.

    So any problems you conservatives encounter with this “Looney” leftist man is all on you.

  4. Randy Green

    I would like to know how in the hell a so called educated person and school principal in Williamson County can get that high up in our children’s education and NOT be familiar with the SPLC!!!

  5. Tomas Rose

    The final result of all this will be to drive more students from WCS schools. The SPLC is the bottom of the barrel sleaze. Even leftwing journals such as The Nation, the Atlantic and Politico have criticized the money-making machine known as the SPLC.

  6. Bruce

    How are you supposed to learn tolerance from the most intolerant organization around ?

    1. Derrick

      Do you all know that the kids at sunset middle formed a Trump wall and only let white kids through and told all other kids, Asian, Indian, black, etc. To go back to Mexico….not only is it stupid to all these races this but it’s bullying and intimidating. This is just one example of many on why tolerance needs to be addressed. But I am sure the kids learn this crap at home from the comments I see here.

  7. William R. Delzell

    Why do you attack the Southern Poverty Law Center? Despite a few differences I have with their center, they are minor and are more concerned with strategy than with goals. That agency has served as a major watch dog that monitors hate groups on both the right and left; mostly the former as rightist violent groups outnumber leftists as domestic terrorists.

    In its early years during the 1970’s when I was a dues-paying member, the Center played a major role in forcing several state prison systems and criminal justice agencies, both north and south, to clean up their act. Examples include giving inmates the right to sue officials for unsafe (for both guards and inmates) conditions in our prisons and to represent the right of indigent defendants and plaintiffs to equal access to our law system. Case in point, the Center represented a defendant who had to kill a thuggish police officer in self defense and to protect his pregnant wife from the same officer. The Center actually did the impossible: by persuading a local all-white Alabama jury of their client’s innocence and his acting in self-defense despite death threats by the prosecutor.

    These are the many things that the Center has done to make for a more just society.

    1. Bob Marsh

      What they were are not what they are

    2. 83ragtop50

      You are living in the past. Wake up and smell the 2019 coffee.

    3. Wolf Woman

      Mr. Delzell, how about some examples of major bias by the SPLC? Like naming Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Robert Spencer, Dr. Bill Warner, Laurie Moore, Brigitte Gabriel and others as bigots and haters simply because they oppose the doctrine of political Islam.

      You say they call out radical right and left hate groups. They have a whole category on their website called Hate Watch on the Right but no Hate Watch on the Left. And they defend the violent leftist group Antifa and other George Soros socialist, U.S. hating orgs. How tolerant is that?

      They defend the “rights” of illegal aliens trying to sneak into our country and use the victim card to manipulate the emotions of the ignorant. They constantly try to whip up racial division. The SPLC views the U.S. as a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic nation. They have over $ 300 million dollars in an off-shore account (why?). All this and more is why the SPLC should be attacked and its deceit, lies and misinformation brought to the light of day. In actuality, the SPLC is the voice of hate..

      ” . . . the late left-wing journalist Alexander Cockburn wrote in 2007: “I’ve long regarded Morris Dees and his Southern Poverty Law Center as collectively one of the greatest frauds in American life.” In 2009 Cockburn called Dees the “arch-salesman of hate-mongering,” a man who profited by “selling the notion there’s a right resurgence out there in the hinterland with massed legions of haters, ready to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of Mein Kampf tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other.”

      Peruse the web site below to see the facts about the SPLC.

  8. Sim

    “WHERE” are the people of Williamson County????
    They need to run the SPLC out of the State, not just the county,
    And that School board with them.

    This is just one more reason we need “Independent Schools” financed by our tax dollars,
    Competition always produces a better Student.

  9. Stuart I. Anderson

    I am ready for some outspoken conservative candidates to run in the upcoming school board election to wipe that smirk off of Looney’s face as well as his Williamson Inc. enablers and to stop the lunacy taking place in the government schools in Williamson County.