Williamson County School Superintendent Mike Looney has long evaded The Tennessee Star’s questions about the “white privilege” in-service training he imposed on teachers during the current academic year, but Thursday he made clear he refuses to talk to us.
“You have mislead [sic], editorializied [sic] and been less than honest in your ‘reporting’ [sic] until this changes I will not recognize your online publication as legitimate and will not respond to requests for comment,” Looney wrote in an emailed statement.
In his email to us, Looney failed to identify a single factual error in any of the stories The Star has published regarding the “white privilege” “Cultural Competency” series.
This was the first time Looney responded directly to The Star, even though for weeks we have sent several emails with several questions to him and his public information officer Carol Birdsong.
As reported, the “white privilege” training is part of a “Cultural Competency series of videos that preach left-leaning social justice themes and America’s supposed dysfunctional history.
On Thursday, The Star tried to ask Looney about an email he sent a parent about the fourth video in that “Cultural Competency” series. We also wanted to ask him about his claim to that parent that a teacher in the school system handed out yet another role-playing assignment to students involving slavery.
In an email to the parent, Looney said the following:
“The Tennessee Star article does not accurately portray the work that we are doing. In short, we are completing a series of training sessions with our employee to ensure that we treat all of our students with respect and dignity. I agree that of the 3 videos that have been produced, one of them could have addressed the topic of privilege more broadly. The next video will correct that. I wish that I could tell you that all 7,000 employees in WCS set aside their own bias when interacting with our students but that is simply not the case,” Looney wrote.
“Just this week, a WCS teacher assigned students the task of taking on the persona of a 13 year old female slave with the task of escaping from their owner. In this gaming assignment, if the student was captured they would receive a simulated whipping. I am confident we all agree these kinds of assignments are not appropriate. As is relates to the SPLC training, we are not participating. Our material has been created internally by our own teachers and administrators.”
Questions The Tennessee Star Has Tried in Vain to Get Looney to Answer
Here are the questions we have previously posed to Looney, which he and Birdsong have refused to either answer or offer comment on:
• A request to comment on The Star’s report the school system broke Tennessee law by not filing a detailed plan about this school year’s In-service teacher training with the Tennessee Department of Education.
• Did Looney or another school system official in any way sanction or encourage teachers in the school district to attend the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance workshop scheduled in Franklin on May 3 and May 4, 2019? Are those teachers, as of Friday, March 15, still scheduled to attend that conference? Did money from the school system’s budget pay for tickets for the event? And is it true Looney ultimately decided to stop 20 teachers from attending the workshop? How exactly did he cancel those 20 attendees? Did he advise the SPLC on behalf of WCS, which had paid for the workshops to the SPLC and require a refund? Did he instruct the teachers individually to cancel their attendance and require proof of those cancellations?
• A comment on an anonymous parent’s statement that an alleged racist incident at Sunset Middle School — in which white students allegedly locked arms and formed “a Trump Wall” to prevent black students from passing them — was, in fact, students acting out a history lesson they learned in class. The lesson, the parent said, taught how people long ago locked arms to keep Irish settlers out. The parent said the lesson had no racist intent.
• A comment on a parent’s statement that the two Sunset Middle School teachers who resigned after reportedly asking students to assign tasks to their slaves were simply carrying out an-already established lesson plan. We also asked Looney whether the two teachers at Sunset Middle resigned from their jobs voluntarily or involuntarily?
• Did Looney tweet in advance about a meeting with a select group of parents to discuss alleged racial problems within the school district (The one that was off limits to media). If no, then why not?
• A comment on a Sunset Middle School parent’s statement that parents and teachers are afraid to speak out against the “Cultural Competency” videos for fear of retaliation.
• A comment on whether Looney and the school system are showing enough transparency to the public.
• Why has Dr. Looney embraced the anti-American exceptionalism philosophy of left wing academic Peggy McIntosh’s “privilege theory,” when it is in direct opposition to Gov. Lee’s State of the State promise to teach Tennessee’s school children “unapologetic American exceptionalism?”
• Why has Williamson County Schools failed to provide evidence that the Williamson County Culture Competency Series was included in the system’s in-service training plan for 2018-2019?
• Why has Williamson County Schools failed to provide evidence that the Williamson County Schools in-service training plan for 2018-2019 was submitted to The Tennessee Department of Education before June 1, 2018, as required by law, and was approved by the Commissioner of Education prior to implementation in Williamson County Schools, as required by law?
• Why has Williamson County Schools teamed up with the left wing hate group Southern Poverty Learning Center, which is conducting a “Teaching Tolerance” seminar to at least 20 Williamson County Schools teachers in Franklin on May 3 and 4?
• Has your school district received any money from the Southern Poverty Law Center?
• Has the Williamson County School System provided its Cultural Competency Series to other school districts in the state of Tennessee? If so, which school districts and when?
• Does Sunset Middle School have a school resource officer who can talk on record about the alleged Jan. 18 racist incident at the school?
• Does Sunset Middle School have any security camera footage to back up the alleged Jan. 18 incident?
• Who authorized the creation of this curriculum? Who wrote and approved it?
• How many “Cultural Competency” modules did the school system create for teachers to watch?
• How much did it cost the school system to make these series of videos?
• What vendor did you use to create these videos?
• Was this cost element included in a budget approved by the board of education?
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