Twenty-One Tennessee Teachers Vow to Defy State Law and Teach Critical Race Theory

Teacher reading to student.


A petition circulated by the Zinn Education Project has collected more than 5,000 signatures from teachers who claim they will teach Critical Race Theory in their classrooms, regardless of whether it is outlawed in their respective states.

Twenty-one of those teachers are from Tennessee.

“Lawmakers in at least 21 states are attempting to pass legislation that would require teachers to lie to students about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and oppression throughout U.S. history,” the petition says.

“From police violence, to the prison system, to the wealth gap, to maternal mortality rates, to housing, to education and beyond, the major institutions and systems of our country are deeply infected with anti-Blackness and its intersection with other forms of oppression,” it continues. “To not acknowledge this and help students understand the roots of U.S. racism is to deceive them — not educate them. This history helps students understand the roots of inequality today and gives them the tools to shape a just future. It is not just a history of oppression, but also a history of how people have organized and created coalitions across race, class, and gender.”

Star News Education Foundation Journalism ProjectIt goes on to list some specific examples of where certain curricula have been banned.

The premise of the petition undermines the latest left-wing narratives on Critical Race Theory, which is that Critical Race Theory is not being taught in public schools. Others claim that it is being taught, but that it’s no different than the history curriculum that has always been taught in public schools.

In May, Tennessee’s General Assembly banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools. It outlined very specific guidance on what may not be taught:

(1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;

(2) An individual, by virtue or the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;

(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race or sex;

(4) An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or sex;

(5) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;

(6) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex;

(7) A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist, or designed by a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex;

(8) This state or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist;

(9) Promoting or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government;

(10) Promoting division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people;

(11) Ascribing character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex;

(12) The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups;

(13) All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; or

(14) Governments should deny to any person with the government’s jurisdiction the equal protection of the law[.]

Below is a list of Tennessee’s signatories, who plan to continue teaching Critical Race Theory, and the comments they wrote on the petition, if any:

  • Lydia Dodd of Chattanooga, who teaches at the United Christian Academy.
    • “It is my responsibility to lead my students in meaningful conversations about the way the world works and how we should interact in it,” she said. “This law restricts me of that responsibility and even threatens me to shy away from topics related to race, which my students deal with on a daily basis. If I can’t teach my students how to think critically and examine their rights as citizens of this country, there is no use for public education”
  • Sofía Noel of Franklin.
    • Noel did comment when signing the Critical Race Theory petition, but appears to have started her own petition to get Pastor Steve Berger of Grace Chapel, a church in Franklin, fired. Berger is Gov. Bill Lee’s (R) pastor. Noel claims in the petition that Berger attended the mostly peaceful protests at the Capitol in Washington on January 6. Berger said he did not attend the protests. In the petition, Noel claims that she will “not address Pastor Berger’s claims that he was in DC [sic] for meetings before January 6th and that he did not attend the action at the Capitol because, after taking a look through his social media, I can see that he has, for many years, been involved directly with the Trump administration and no amount of backtracking after January 6th can erase this collaboration.” She also said that it’s “very telling to me that Steve Berger did not condemn white supremacy, Donald Trump, or fascism” when discussing the events of the day.
  • Parker Schramme of Memphis, who lists herself as a Resident Teacher at Memphis Teacher Residency.
  • T. Miller of Memphis.
    • “I feel that the truth matters and will be [sic] eventually heal many,” Miller said. “For too long students, even I as an older American, have heard stories that shared a one sided view of this country. That view has often left many of this country’s people feel [sic] left out, not a part of, and non purposeful. It’s time to help a generation understand and accept the all of this country’s history and start true healing [sic] that is needed for all Americans young, old and especially those who paid the price of sacrifice. If we don’t teach CRT, why? Please don’t say to keep one group comfortable or because one group will feel bad. That isn’t sufficient because one group has already paved the road that one [sic]. The truth could set us all truly free and begin to wash the stain that has soaked so deeply in this country for far too long. Hey the truth is going to stand and come out anyway!”
  • Jennifer Cordero of Cordova, who teaches fifth grade at the University Campus School at the University of Memphis.
  • Lydia Rose of Chattanooga, who is a Reading Specialist at Avondale Adventist School.
    • “Students without the truth of their history are misguided and have no sense of pride,” Rose said. “I have tutored students and discovered that they didn’t know about important events in history – The Trail of Tears/Indian Removal, Black Wall Street, Residential Schools, Reconstruction, etc. This can’t continue.”
  • Shara Troutner of Cleveland, who is an English/Language Arts Teacher at North Murray High School in Georgia.
  • Nicholas Smith of Memphis, who teaches Special Education at Riverwood Elementary School.
  • James Horn of Nashville.
    • “The history of the United States should not be sanitized to spare the feelings of white supremacists who would prefer to deny the incontrovertible events of the past which continue to shape the present,” Horn said. “The fact is that another generation of legislators have chosen to use their institutional prerogative to pass more censorious laws aimed to subvert the truth demonstrates to us that critical race theory is not a theory at all but, rather, an undeniable fact derived by living in a nation whose vast wealth was built on the backs of slaves.”
  • Melanie Edwards, formerly a Life Skills teacher at Harpeth Middle School in Kingston Springs, Cheatham County outside Nashville, who retired after the 2019-2020 school year. Edwards was once awarded “Educator of the Week” by WKRN news. That news outlet lauded her for being “a co-sponsor of Kids Offering Diversity Appreciation, a club celebrating all students.”
    • “I will teach the truth, always,” Edwards said. “As a nation we will never heal, until we all join together to understand. Our students are our future.”
  • Jane Marcellus of Murfreesboro, who teaches journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.
    • “These restrictions are fascist,” Marcellus said.
  • Justine Brunett of Memphis, who is an English as a Second Language teacher at Shelby County Schools.
    • “My students have the power to create a more just society, but they must understand the truth about injustice first,” Brunett said.
  • Phyllis D.K. Hildreth, JD of Nashville, who is the Vice President for Institutional Strategy and Academics at American Baptist College and an Adjunct Professor for Lipscomb’s Institute for Law, Justice & Society.
    • “Freedom and justice for all require truth, restoration, reparation, then reconciliation,” Hildreth said. “Teaching complete, if contested, histories of social systems and civic governance is an indispensable predicate to shared and lasting peace in Beloved Community.”
  • Kelly Hill of Nashville.
    • “I want to give students the education that I did not receive in school and free them from having to unlearn/relearn history as an adult as I am now having to do,” Hill said.
  • Elisabeth Jones of Cookeville, who teaches English and Social Studies at White Plains Academy, an alternative school for troubled children in Putnam County.
    • “THE TRUTH MUST BE TAUGHT,” Jones said.
  • Valarie Gibson of Christiana.
    • “I believe our children are the FUTURE!” Gibson said. “You cannot manifest with the present, or the future without learning the truth! It is our duty to teach all children that we are all One Entity here on Mother Earth, and every facet you can imagine is a part of you too. I believe the next generation will be better at Unity, Compassion, Love, Knowledge, Strength, Forgiveness, and seeking the truth at all costs. I am extremely grateful and hopeful that your ZINN EDUCATION PROJECT is a blessing on this Planet! May God, Jesus, The Faeries, and the Universe be with you!”
  • Lindsey Hamilton of Nashville, who is the Director of Equity at Nashville Teacher Residency. She describes herself on LinkedIn as a “Educator-activist with deep literacy expertise, demonstrated success developing students & teachers, and a boatload of vision and ideas for building schools where all students thrive,” with a “Known passion for social justice in education.”
    • “We deserve to speak and tell the truth,” Hamilton said.
  • Louise Braswell of Spring Hill, who teaches Art at Chapman’s Retreat Elementary School.
    • “The truth, women, African Americans, Asian Americans (et al), and the future of the world matter,” Braswell said. “OUR children deserve to know OUR history in order to make a better world. Knowledge about OUR history isn’t always pleasant but it is necessary in order not to repeat it. You see, the future depends upon human beings behaving respectfully, responsibly, and compassionately to each other.”
  • Allison Aubrey of Chattanooga.
    • “The bill that’s been passed further marginalizes and pushes to the side the reality of many of the students we serve in our community,” Aubrey said. “I want to uphold the truth.”
  • Heather Johnson of Memphis, who teaches English as a Second Language at Memphis RISE Academy.
    • “Our students deserve to know the truth!” Johnson said.
  • Laura Tippit Braytenbah of Arlington, who teaches at Shelby County Schools.
    • “History should not be washed away just because it’s uncomfortable,” Braytenbah said.

The Zinn Education Project is a nonprofit whose goal is to implement social justice curriculum in American schools.

“The goal of the Zinn Education Project is to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula,” according to its website. “The empowering potential of studying U.S. history is often lost in a textbook-driven trivial pursuit of names and dates. People’s history materials and pedagogy emphasize the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in shaping history. Students learn that history is made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions, thereby also learning that their own choices and actions matter.”

– – –

Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].

This article was updated to reflect that according to Tim Adkins, the communications director for the Cheatham County School District, Melanie Edwards retired from teaching at Harpeth Middle School in Kingston Springs at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.





Related posts

34 Thoughts to “Twenty-One Tennessee Teachers Vow to Defy State Law and Teach Critical Race Theory”

  1. Patti

    Take away their certifications so they’re never allowed to teach again!!!

  2. […] Dr. Jane Marcellus, a professor of journalism, denounced restrictions on teaching critical race theory passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in a July 13 article in the Tennessee Star. Her views are available here. […]

    1. Scott Pellham

      If I went and crapped on her lawn at her home ,she’d have me thrown in jail!
      The same should go for her crapping on our children’s minds

  3. Parent

    They should lose their Teachers license to teach in TN school permanently!

    1. Kalee

      AMEN!! And be charged with child abuse! We should suggest an amendment to the law to our Legislators!

  4. In my Parents Time and before, these communists would be tarred and feathered and run out of town!
    Our Children are not theirs’ to ruin! If the Legislature and Governor have not made this felony they need to get to it before School tarts the next session. Call a special an emergency session Governor and make the teaching of Subversion with racism, Communism and anti-Americanism a felony with harsh punishment! twenty years at hard labor and high fi and forbid their contact with our children ever again! What they are doing is criminal and child abuse.
    They are our children, they do not belong to the Racist Communists or state!

  5. juspassinthru

    Lock’em up for breaking the law. Maximum fine, maximum time.

  6. Pam Seamonds

    .So, in the state of Tennessee, 21 “educators” get to decide what the truth is about our history, and teach what they want to, regardless of the opinion of the majority, and despite the fact that this indoctrination has been proven to be false? Parents need to stand together and fight back against this evil. Thank God my children are grown and no linger attend public schools in Tennessee!

  7. Harriett

    Fire them because they are putting their politics first over children’s education. Fire them immediately. My tax dollars should count towards the good of our county and not thrown to the wind.

  8. 83ragtop50

    I figure nothing will happen to them and the others who are too cowardly to commit in writing to teach this propaganda. Unfortunately, if I recall correctly, Schwinn is in charge of enforcing the law against teaching this stuff and the penalty is withholding funds from a school district that defies the law. I hope that I am wrong on both counts. I f that is correct then it is a poorly conceived and drafted law with no real teeth (typical of the Tennessee GOP). I figure that it will be up to we parents to hold the local school boards and administrators accountable. So keep your ears to the ground and speak up – LOUDLY!

  9. william delzell

    Good for these teachers! They are right to defy your disgusting law!

    1. Jarvis Smith

      You think it’s ok for state employees and government officials to pick and choose what laws they want? What would happen if everyone did this. Do you want a lawless nation? You must be a defund the police radical that has left the most vulnerable people of color and poor inner city citizens to rising crime and murder rates too. Pathetic

  10. Robert E Roark

    All of these protestors proclaim the urgency of teaching the “truth”, but the only truth they are willing to acknowledge involves actions against black citizens. No where do they acknowledge all of the benefits that a majority of blacks and other minorities have derived from their good fortune to live in the United States. They seemingly want tribalism to replace our republican form of government and turn us into Afghanistan west.

  11. Chris

    Individually sue the teacher for discrimination and child abuse.

  12. Chet Burnes

    Does the law provide penalties for noncompliance?

    Will teachers speak out if their school tried to impose this?

    1. Kalee

      Yes, there a penalties. The school loses funding. See Section 51:

      The teacher should also lose their license and be charged with child abuse.

  13. HELP WANTED: Immediate openings for twenty one qualified, non-woke teachers to educate our young. Victims, wannabes, losers, mentally unstable need not apply.

  14. H Jerome Titshaw Jr

    Immediate termination and should NEVER be allowed to “teach” (propagandize) and corrupt anyone, ever. What “sanitization” and what “truth”. This is pure communist revolution in action. Always the same plays, always the same results. Division, death and destruction. CRT is completely false in both fact and context.

  15. homer

    Revoke teaching license!

  16. SadButTrue

    easy fix. remove their certification.

    that’s why the state controls licensing.

  17. Maggieme

    Fire all these educators and find teachers who want to teach the 3R’s. Don’t erase our history or retell it the way you want. CRT is Marxism, and doesn’t belong in our school system.

  18. Dr. Dewayne Chappell

    FIRE THEM PERIOD. CRT is Marxism and it is not our majority’s way of life and besides there is the Rule of Law that pesky little thing that has already spoken for the majority of us Tennesseans that says we don’t want anything to do with CRT in Tennessee so love that or leave Tennessee.
    21 teachers are not the majority and besides the garbage that they want to teach is all lies and again we have already made the law. Obey or get FIRED. That’s it and go whine somewhere else like in California where they will probably hire you.

  19. EdC

    The parents of these “teachers” will be the front line push back. Parents should hound the respective school boards and demand their dismissal (a law suit would be a good start). The time to act is now, especially now over summer.

  20. Kevin

    I’m OK with firing, and arresting, anybody who defies the law, BUT what are we going to do about a Governor, a Commissioner of Education, and a whole cast of other characters who fundamentally think that CRT is OK?

    Actually, why haven’t all of these teachers and these other “characters” resigned? Aren’t they “white” or at least in some percentage “white”? Thus, according to the CRT doctrine, they are “oppressors”, and therefore the root cause of the problem!

    Oh, that’s right, this is classic Leftist BS, “do as I say, not as I do!”

    1. not2day

      Well said Kevin.

  21. Russ Crouch

    Teachers cannot be allowed to teach whatever they want. They have to go.

  22. Tim Price

    Fire these Communists excuses for educators!

  23. Syph

    I smell a class action lawsuit. They deserve to be thrown in prison for teaching that bullshit

  24. Rick

    They all should be fired and have their teacher certification revoked,.

  25. John Bumpus

    Get rid of them. All of them. They are more trouble than they’re worth.

    1. Ron

      Violate the law, reap the reward. What this article doesn’t include are the punitive measures in the TN Law or if there were any. Moreover, with Schwinn in place what do these so-called ‘Teachers’ have to fear? Remove, Schwinn as well Governor and then we’ll talk.