Moms for Liberty Williamson County (ML-WC) President Robin Steenman said this week that she will refile a complaint that Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) Commissioner Penny Schwinn rejected last November.
Steenman complained about the Williamson County School System’s Wit and Wisdom curriculum, which she said perpetuates the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT).
Schwinn rejected Steenman’s complaint last fall because she said those allegations pertain to events that transpired during the 2020-2021 school year.
Members of the Tennessee General Assembly last year passed a bill effectively banning Critical Race Theory from K-12 education.
Steenman, however, said the TDOE has a moral responsibility to act because the curriculum is “divisive, dark, and not age appropriate.”
“There is no reason to wait. You are aware of the issue — and it was raised with respect to the 2021-22 school year in advance of the injury of this curriculum on our children and grandchildren. Why did it take five months for a response to the complaint I made in June?” Steenman asked.
“Interestingly, in the meantime — between my letter dated June 30, 2021 and your response to me on November 23, 2021 — you have created new rules for the Department of Education, which says that complaints must be filed on a newly created form to the local education agency.”
Steenman was unavailable for comment Thursday.
TDOE spokesman Brian Blackley told The Tennessee Star on Thursday that the department is only authorized to investigate allegations that occurred during the 2021 to 2022 school years and subsequent school years.
“In declining to investigate these claims, the department has not made a determination regarding the merits of these allegations,” Blackley said.
“We encouraged the complainant to work with the Williamson County School District to resolve the issues and concerns related to the complaint and to ensure compliance with state law.”
ML-WC members last year detailed examples of books that elementary students within the Williamson County School System must read that allegedly perpetuate CRT. They cited the WCS requirement for second-grade students to read a book titled Separate is Never Equal, by Duncan Tonatiuh. The book depicts a Hispanic family’s efforts in the 1940s to end segregation in California schools.
The Star reviewed the audio book, available on YouTube. The book portrays white children telling a Hispanic girl, who spoke English and was a U.S. citizen, to “go back to the Mexican school” and that she didn’t belong with the white students. Separate is Never Equal also depicts white characters degrading Mexicans for supposed poor hygiene and a supposed lack of social skills.
Second-grade students within the WCS must also read books about Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to desegregate a school in New Orleans in 1960. The book contains illustrations depicting that real-life event.
One book, The Story of Ruby Bridges, as authored by Robert Coles, illustrates “a large crowd of angry white people” who gathered outside of her school who called her names and wanted to hurt or even kill her.
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