North Texas Principal Faces Backlash Over Antiracism Efforts

Colleyville Heritage High School’s first Black principal is on paid administrative leave for reasons his district hasn’t disclosed.

By Kristen Cabrera & Caroline CovingtonSeptember 3, 2021 11:59 am, ,

The first Black principal of Colleyville Heritage High School has been put on paid administrative leave for undisclosed reasons, but the move comes after the principal and a crowd of supporters attended a school board meeting to address claims from a group of parents who say he is teaching critical race theory.

Although a district spokesperson would not offer a reason, a statement from the district made clear that the principal, James Whitfield, was not placed on leave because of the parents’ accusations.

Critical race theory is a legal academic concept that examines the role of race and racism in society. It’s not usually taught in primary and secondary public schools, and is often lumped together with diversity, equity and inclusion efforts by many public schools across Texas – both things some parents have vehemently opposed.

Whitfield argues his district “came after him,” says Dallas Morning News reporter Anna Caplan, who’s been covering the story.

Problems for Whitfield began years ago. In 2019, he was asked to take down photos of him and his wife on an anniversary celebration at a Mexican beach off of his Facebook page. The photo was posted before he started as principal at one of the district’s middle schools. Some say the request was racially motivated; Whitfield’s wife is white.

“[It was] in an effort of, what the district said at the time, was to ensure a really nice, really smooth transition for Whitfield at the new school. They asked Dr. Whitfield to remove the photos and he did,” Caplan said.

The recent conflict centers around a letter Whitfield wrote to parents and students in the midst of racial justice protests last year in response to the murder of George Floyd, calling it an opportunity to be “antiracist,” Caplan said. But some of Whitfield’s critics claim he used it as an opportunity to introduce the teaching of critical race theory, or CRT.

One community member, Stetson Clark, publicly called out Whitfield at a meeting, against school board rules, for allegedly “indoctrinating children” through the teaching of CRT, Caplan says. Clark later ran for a school board position and narrowly lost.

Caplan says Whitfield recently told her he believes he’s done nothing wrong, and believes the district hasn’t supported him during these conflicts.

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