by Karrie Marren
Child-rearing is going on in Williamson County Schools (WCS) without the parents’ knowledge or consent and the administrators, the school board, and the non-profits that are involved do not feel it is wrong.
The lack of involvement and transparency for parents who are not in line with Superintendent Jason Golden, and the non-profits feeding into WCS is glaring. It is a double standard for those conservative, traditional, pro-America, Christian parents who wish to be and legally is, the primary caretaker for their child, who has the right to raise their children as they see fit, morally, ethically, and spiritually.
In fact, WCS, the school board and several Williamson County (WC) nonprofits feel it is their duty to teach our children as they see fit. Several non-profits with direct links to WCS feel it is their responsibility to teach our children what they feel is “the truth” without our consent or knowledge and we should not have the right to shield our child from hard, scary, or difficult issues.
Fostering Healthy Solutions (FHS) and Derek Young of derekyoungspeaks.com and alumnus of the Young Leaders Council (YLC)are two of those non-profit organizations. Derek Young is still under review by the board for a several-year contract; however, FHS was hired by WCS after a unanimous vote by the school board. Shan Foster and his mother, Anita Foster signed their consulting agreement in February 2021. The $55,000/6 months contract is vague; however, emails obtained through a public record request have revealed their primary focus is on “ethnicity issues” when it comes to DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) for people of color (POC) in WCS.
In the 6 months, they have held several one-way “listen and learn” virtual calls where they listened to feedback or concerns from WC residents and, according to the WCS InFocus April 27, 2021 newsletter, Vickie Hall, who is the WCS Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and who vetted FHS, stated, “The Fosters have already given me guidance and suggestions on how we can improve upon some of our processes.” A public records request sought what the guidance and suggestions have been thus far which was denied by Dana Ausbrooks, the lead general counsel for WCS, citing they were only verbal conversations and thus, not subject to the public record request laws.
The contract ends in July 2021. Its contract states that it can be renewed for the school year of 2021-2022 and is “identified as a full year contract renewal and will be provided as a separate contract.” If this school board discussion goes as so many have gone before it, the contract will be renewed regardless of what so many residents have already expressed-to not renew the contract. WC residents do not want this political game of social justice to be played out at the expense of our children.
To help us understand the possible impact FHS will have in our schools and on its policies, we sought to better understand who Shan Foster is and where he lands in DEI conversations. Shan Foster is the executive director of AMEND Together and vice president of external affairs at the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee. He uses this platform to speak to various groups such as the Metro Human Relations Commission where he did a chapter review on Ibram Kendi’s book How to be an Antiracist and a presentation called “Stand Against Racism” at the Nashville Center of Islam through this position.
He is also associated with “A Call To Men,” which teaches about toxic masculinity and domestic violence and it is at one of these events he gives us insights into how he thinks and what he may bring to WCS:
“We are living in a monumental, historic moment. One that our children’s children will learn about in school. A reckoning. A great awakening for many. And an opportunity for everyone to face systemic inequity and injustice with courage, resolve, and a commitment to change,” he said.
“My role, as a Black man and as a social justice leader, is to use my platform to elevate these issues. To lift up the voices of Black women and others who face multiple forms of group oppression. To speak my truth. To share my lived experience—even though it can be traumatic and is primarily for the benefit of furthering White folks’ understanding. Still, I am committed to using the influence I have to pursue a more just and equitable world.”
In an interview with the Tennessean Voices, Shan Foster claims he is in a unique position as an activist. Because he has been a professional basketball player, he has the great opportunity to “see and be connected to so many different people on social media platforms.”What he has noticed there “in those pictures and life events that people have shared” is that White people only have White people in their pictures. ‘There is no diversity.
It seems FHS is not working alone in the work to change the WCS culture, curriculum, classrooms, and policies. Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition (FJEC) is a non-profit that partners with the Williamson Social Justice Alliance to coordinate efforts with other like-minded non-profits in our county. On June 1, 2021, FJEC teamed up with OneWillCo for their Facebook Live event titled ‘THE FIGHT FOR DIVERSITY IN WCS’. The event was led by Bryant Herbert, the co-founder of FJEC and employed by WCS at Centennial High School as the counseling & support team’s Restorative Practice Specialist. The 4-panelist answered various questions and gave their insights into the diversity, equity, and racism issue they believe we have in WCS.
One panelist, Kim James, who is the executive director of the non-profit Young Leaders Council (YLC) and formally the grant partnership manager at Tennessee SCORE, stated she is a parent of children in WCS and is the point person her child’s school administration reaches out to when the have a “racist incident” for her to advise them on how to best handle them. We could not find James in the WCS staff directory, and we are not certain what the WCS selection process, background check or what professional titles she holds to serve at such a post but, nonetheless, she is consulted. She felt that:
“To coddle your children is not going to help them. In corporate America, they will need to understand certain things are not appropriate, some of them will get you fired from your job. We can give them better knowledge to equip the children and stop this.”
She follows this by saying, “If my child is old enough to experience racism then your child is old enough to talk about it.”
Additionally, the panel, who also included Lamont Turner (Tennesseans for Historical Justice who supported efforts to remove Nathan Bedford Forrest from the TN State Capitol), Jenny Cortez of OneWillCo and Anne McGraw, a WC parent and associated with several of these listed non-profits, discussed the WC parents who spoke at the most recent May 2021 school board meeting who “want to ban discussions on race and equality” and their dismay towards them. Yes, many concerned parents attended this meeting to voice their objections to several topics, one of them being the use of Critical Race Theory ideologies in our schools but never said they wanted to ban equality.
The FJEC panelist continued, “Children learn from the home, they regurgitate what they hear at home, learning the oppression. We have a unique opportunity to address this head on by allowing the child to learn about the ‘truth’ of history.”
When asked about their feelings on teaching the children in WCS about their White guilt, James said:
“It is how you approach it, that is key. They need to have knowledge of this (oppression and white guilt) historically and how systemic racism has impacted different individuals among a certain race. It is important to have this knowledge, or you could get fired. It is critical to equip the child to do better, act better, know better. So, when they (the school) teach the child the TRUTH and they (the child) hear a different version of it at home, the child can tell their parent they are wrong. If we address this now, we can stop this because they hear a different argument at home.”
They said they feel the need to equip our children to have these conversations amongst each other and our children need to learn the truth and NOT WHAT THEY ARE LEARNING AT HOME “where at home, parents are picking and choosing what area they want to share on someone else’s hidden agenda.” ‘The discussion of the history of oppression in America and the oppression in the historical documents in America should be taught’ and they feel FHS and their nonprofits will do just this.
Anne McGraw, a WC parent and FJEC panelist, explained how she has her child come home and tell her about any perceived “racist” event at her school and she then proceeds to report those directly to Fostering Healthy Solutions. This reminds us of the 1930s when in Russia’s Stalin had his “informers,” where neighbors, friends and family would “report” on disloyalty to the state and then consequences or even death would follow. In our case, this could be used as ‘disloyalty’ and false accusations toward their social justice beliefs.
Golden and the many central office Superintendents seem to operate behind the scenes, hiring nonprofits, like Fostering Healthy Solutions and Young rewrite our policies, and monitor our children so to eradicate the “systemic racism” that our white children bring to the schools.
We have placed our trust in WCS administrators and the school board members to protect our children. However, the inequity of transparency for ALL parents to know what is going on in their schools and children’s classrooms is of the utmost concern. It appears we are losing our God-given and legal right to raise our children as their parents and to protect them from harm.
Vladimir Lenin said:
Give me 4 years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never uproot.
Could this be what our Williamson County Schools are doing as well?
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Karrie Marren is a Williamson County parent and resident who is concerned with the lack of transparency for parents in public school education.