Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Montgomery County (Maryland): Teacher Training Records Include ‘Restorative Justice’ and ‘Psychoeducation’

(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch (website) received two sets of new records related to the teaching of critical race theory in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), Maryland’s largest school system. The new records include a training course with information about a book titled “Antiracist Baby” that introduces the youngest readers to “the concept and power of antiracism,” and says it’s the “perfect gift” for “ages baby to age 3.” 
The new documents also include information from a course titled, “Digital Literacy 3” at Thomas Pyle Middle School. The course’s curriculum includes activities where the children discuss the identification of their gender, religion, and sexual orientation.  The course also includes the children using “propaganda” to lead social justice movements. 
The documents were obtained in response to a Judicial Watch Maryland Public Information Act request. 
In a September 29, 2020, an email from MCPS intern Benjamin Mourad in the “Student Well Being and Achievement” office  provides a list of trainings offered in the summer of 2020 to MCPS staff. This training includes: 
  • REQ: Restorative Justice Training on Restorative Circles, Mindfulness & Other Restorative Practices
  • School-based Critical Staff Member Training
  • Counselors as Equity Literate Leaders
  • Implementing Culturally Responsive PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports)
In an August 26, 2020, email titled “COVID-19 Update” to MCPS principals, MCPS Associate Superintendent for the Office of Shared Accountability Janet S. Wilson, advises the principals that “Non-custodial parents” who request Zoom login information [for access to school and potential Zoom events, like Back-to School Night] should not be granted connection information.
Additionally, teachers were told that parents should not login to Zoom classrooms and observe class when the child is not with them. If teachers note a parent logging in separately from their student, they should notify their principal who can seek support from OGC (Office of General Counsel) or Compliance as needed.
The records also show that all Montgomery County schools will be required to implement a student psychoeducational lesson during one of the school’s mandatory Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) block. This lesson will provide students crisis facts about the "dual pandemic" (COVID-19 and systemic racism).
In an instructional video for teachers on “Teacher Tips for SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) on Covid19/Social Justice,” in which the presenter first instructs teachers how to set up Zoom classes for students and how to adjust a feature in the Zoom chat setting to “alleviate the possibility of students saving and sharing the chat for later.” At the 6:30 mark, the presenter, in a slide titled “Covid-19 and social justice surrounding racism,” directs teachers to use a “scripted response”:
We are currently living through a dual pandemic with COVID-19 and the Systemic and Structural racism occurring worldwide. A pandemic is defined by an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population. As you can see from this slide [featuring a Black Lives Matter protest poster], both are affecting lives of people in our community and around the world. Part of what we will discuss today will surround facts about COVID-19 and the Social Justice Movement in our country.
In a PowerPoint presentation titled the “3rd through 5th Grade Psychoeducational Lesson” a slide labeled “COVID-19 and Social Justice” includes the claim that, “People in African American and Latinx communities have been more likely to get sick from COVID-19 because of how racism and unfairness impacts their lives.” [Emphasis in original]
In a presentation titled “High School Psychoeducational Lesson,” a link is provided to the “Educator and Caregiver Learning Guide from Disrupt Texts” for the book titled “Antiracist Baby.” In the book the authors note, “To White caregivers … Racism is a problem that was invented by White people, and it is the work of White people to dismantle it.” The authors add that it is the responsibility of White caregivers to “study Whiteness,” and advise that, “Indigenous, Black and People of Color are not ‘minorities’ but ‘People of the Global Majority’ (PGM).”
The new records include a draft activity assignment titled “Personal Identity Character Sketch” in which students were told to “focus on the intersectionality of your culture and another way that you identify yourself (your race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, class or another identity factor not listed here).” The assignment was adapted from the book “Courageous Conversations.”
A draft presentation created by Montgomery County Public Schools Secondary Literacy Instruction is titled “Digital Literacy 3, Quarter 2: When Justice Isn’t Served” and features a “No Justice No Peace” logo, and features the following slides:
  • Scenarios of Injustice” describes a group activity where the students, “Work together with your group to determine how you would address your scenario of injustice,” and “Everyone must prepare to present your ideas to the class.”
  • This activity includes a section where Students are provided with a “Scenario of Injustice” to discuss and write down ideas about. In this scenario, students are told that they witnessed two men – one black and one white – fighting in a parking lot. Police arrive and separate the men -forcing the black man to the ground, handcuffing and putting him in the police car. The police question the white man who, “shakes hands with the policemen and walks away.”
“This material details how extremist race politics and CRT are being used to target children for political ends,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Politics should immediately be removed from the curriculum of Montgomery County Schools. These CRT-laden teachings have no place in any American classroom.”
In May, Judicial Watch obtained other records related to today’s release from Montgomery County Public Schools, which include documents related to their “Anti-racist system audit” and critical race theory classes. Students of “Maryland’s Largest School District” who attended Thomas Pyle Middle School’s social justice class were taught that the phrase “Make America Great Again” was an example of “covert white supremacy.” The phrase is ranked on a pyramid just below “lynching,” “hate crimes,” “the N-word” and “racial slurs.”
They were also taught that “white privilege” means being favored by school authorities and having a positive relationship with the police.
Note: This article is based on a Nov. 4, 2021, press release from Judicial Watch. 
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