Will another Wisconsin school district cave to the pressures of a liberal activist group pushing racist critical race theory curriculum under the pretense of diversity?
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) on Thursday issued a letter to the Cedarburg School District making clear that the district is not legally required to adopt critical race theory concepts in their curriculum, nor can the Wisconsin Department of Instruction (DPI) legally mandate the school district to adopt CRT ideas.
“Cedarburg should not be intimidated into adopting controversial and politicized curriculum as a result of vague and unsubstantiated charges made by a local activist group. And any attempt by the state to force curriculum changes would be inappropriate, unwarranted, and likely illegal,” said Dan Lennington, deputy legal counsel for the Milwaukee-based public interest law firm.
But local left-wing activist group Bridge the Divide, which doesn’t like what it sees as a lack of diversity in Cedarburg, has been pushing hard. In July, the group sent a complaint charging the district was not supporting and promoting “nondiscriminatory practices in all district and school activities.”
Bridge the Divide alleged Cedarburg’s curriculum violates state and federal law. The district investigated and found no violations, but conceded “[t]here are areas where the District needs to make additional efforts to meet the spirit of the statutes and policies in question.” The activist group has made an appeal to DPI suggesting Cedarburg’s curriculum is not “diverse and representative.”
In its letter, WILL told Superintendent Todd Bugnacki that bowing to pressure to incorporate race-centric curriculum is “unnecessary and concerning.”
“Cedarburg is free to amend or add to its curriculum, but it need not make any changes as a result of the Bridge the Divide complaint and appeal,” the law firm stated. “Schools should absolutely continue to teach all of American history, including topics ranging from the existence of slavery to the substantial contributions of racial minorities to American culture and success. But districts are not required to teach a highly politicized and contested view of history and race. And, depending on how it is executed, doing so may even be forbidden.”
WILL contends the group’s allegations “are vague and unsupported by evidence.” The activists advocate for the Cedarburg School District to teach that racism is systemic, according to the law firm, and the group demonstrates a blatant misunderstanding of what Wisconsin law requires, and what it does not.
It’s part of a trend, the letter states, that involves legal challenges to curricula, whether they include enough race and related matters of cultural diversity — tied to a particular ideology.
A radical, marxist ideology that aims to divide, critics say. Christopher Rufo, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and CRT expert, told a state legislative committee last year that race is an essential category for the purveyors of the social, economic, and governmental revolution that CRT encourages.
“You can be reduced to an essence of whiteness or blackness. These are things you cannot change or overcome,” Rufo said. “Whiteness (to CRT apologists) is synonymous with oppression, racism, privilege, property superiority, meritocracy, which they consider to be a flaw in our system.”
The Republican-led Legislature passed bills prohibiting the teaching of CRT, so-called “anti-racism” and other curricula promoting racial guilt, entitlement and victimization. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat and proponent of the ideology, vetoed the bills.
“Whether or not one agrees with this ideology, nothing in Wisconsin law requires that it be taught. Claims that the Cedarburg School District violates state law by failing to inculcate it are, to be blunt, nonsense,” WILL states in the letter to the district. More so, such lessons could violate nondiscrimination laws by creating a hostile race environment.
Bridge the Divide, according to a 2018 piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is in part the brainchild of Heidi Wheeler, a white woman who moved the predominately white Ozaukee County community of about 12,000 residents a few years ago.
Wheeler, who reportedly formerly lived in Chicago, Denver and New York, “was struck by the lack of diversity” in the county.
“Wanting to expand her social circle, Wheeler became friends with Erica Turner, one of the few people of color at her church,” the newspaper reported.
Turner, who moved to Cedarburg a decade ago, called Cedarburg “Oz,” that it’s “not the real world.”
“It’s a very special place, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but it forces you to take some action steps to diversify your world,” she told the newspaper.
In its letter to the district, WILL asserts it would be “inappropriate and unwarranted” for DPI to find Cedarburg schools fail to comply with state law on curriculum related to race and matters of cultural diversity.
“Similarly, it would be an overreach for the DPI to mandate wholesale changes to the Cedarburg School District curriculum under Wis. Stat. § 118.13,” the letter states. “We will be watching for the response by the DPI and are hopeful that it will find no corrective action is required. “