By Tennessee law, the Williamson County School Board is required to approve In-service training plans for teachers.
As reported, this year’s In-service training of Williamson County Schools teachers for the academic year 2018-2019 includes a “Cultural Competency” video series that preached “white privilege.”
At present, there is no evidence that Superintendent Mike Looney ever prepared the statutorily required In-service training plan, nor is there any evidence the Williamson County School Board ever approved that plan, as is required by law, nor is their any evidence that Superintendent Looney submitted that plan to the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) by June 1, 2018, as is required by law, nor is their any evidence that former Commissioner of Education Candace McQueen approved that plan, as is required by law.
Superintendent Mike Looney is supposed to file that training plan with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) every June before the start of a new school year, and the plan may not be implemented without the approval of the Commissioner of Education.
So, if those plans, and a document containing former Commissioner of Education Candace McQueen’s approval of those plans are on file with the TDOE, then surely members of that department have them somewhere in their repository, right?
Well, all 12 members of the Williamson County School Board won’t return The Tennessee Star’s repeated requests for comment concerning when, why, or even if they voted to approve these In-service teacher training plans. Nor will Superintendent Mike Looney or Williamson County Schools public information officer Carol Birdsong.
As of Tuesday, school system officials have not provided any evidence to show the Williamson County School Board approved the “white privilege” in service training for teachers, as required by state law.
Request for Comment Denied
School board members did not return The Star’s requests for comment before Tuesday’s stated deadline. The Star asked board members for the exact date they approved this “Cultural Competency” training series plan.
We also asked board members for a copy of the minutes of the meeting where they voted in favor of the plan.
On Tuesday, we also emailed another open records request with county school system spokeswoman Carol Birdsong, specifically asking for all material showing that school board members voted in favor of this In-service training plan.
The email to Birdsong bounced back, however, with a message. In it, Birdsong said she is out of her office for spring break and will return March 25.
In-Service Teacher Training Plans
The Star sent open records requests to the TDOE seeking a copy of Williamson County’s In-service teacher training plans for academic year 2018-2019 on March 6 and March 11.
Penny Schwinn now serves as the Commissioner of Education in the Lee administration, and all employees in TDOE report to her.
By law, the TDOE is required to respond to open record requests within 7 days. As of this morning, March 20, it has been 14 days since The Star submitted its first open records request to TDOE to obtain a copy of Williamson County’s In-service teacher training plans, and 9 days since The Star filed its second request.
It would appear, then, that the TDOE is in violation of Tennessee’s open records laws.
In response to that first request, Nikkie Kiene, paralegal for the TDOE’s Office of General Counsel, said in a March 7 email that she could offer no help.
“We do not have any responsive documents,” Kiene said.
“I would suggest that you reach out directly to Williamson County Schools for this information.”
The Star asked for the same thing again on March 11 and received no response. The Star contacted Kiene Tuesday morning and asked for an update as to when we’d receive copies of the requested documents — as they are legally required to give us.
No one at the TDOE responded.
Per the TDOE’s website, and per Tennessee law, T.C.A. Section 49-6-3004 says the following:
“In-service days shall be used according to a plan recommended by the local superintendent of schools in accordance with the provisions of this section and other applicable statutes, and adopted by the local board of education. A copy of this plan shall be filed with the State Commissioner of Education on or before June 1 the preceding school year and approved by him.” (emphasis added)
‘Cultural Competency’ Videos
But that’s just one example among many of a leftist, politically correct narrative that school system officials try to drill into their teachers through these videos.
Another supposed nugget of wisdom the narrator passes down:
“Using coded language like ‘ghetto,’ ‘thug,’ or even ‘helicopter parents’ can fuel biased behavior and unintentionally reinforce stereotypes,” the narrator of the video said.
Also, as reported, Module No. 3 tried to indoctrinate teachers on how to teach students about “white privilege.”
The In-service training video, this one 26 minutes in, profiled several people whom the video described as “Williamson County Voices.”
The video did not identify anyone, nor did it make clear if these people are school system employees or county residents not formally affiliated with the school system. One man, though, identified himself as a school administrator.
Later, the narrator told viewers “that white individuals do enjoy unearned advantages that society does not necessarily offer to individuals of color.”
Also, as The Star reported, Williamson County officials had the ultimate power to approve an In-service “white privilege” training curriculum for their teachers last month, said Chandler Hooper, 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.
Tennessee’s education commissioner, according to the rules, has the final say approving any In-service training plans. Local school system officials submit those plans to the education commissioner months before the start of the new school year.