MOUNTAIN LAKES – In the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, the school district in this affluent Morris County community has developed an e-booklet titled “Seeking Justice From Thought to Action,” which would have encouraged political activism in favor of “the fight against racism”. » ideology.
For some, it may have seemed like an appropriate response to an uplifting event.
But not everyone.
The district and its leaders are being sued, individually, in federal court for allegedly discriminating against white students. The lawsuit claims that the district’s curriculum and activities related to the Floyd case imposed a “racial political ideology on its students” in violation of federal law. Additionally, such programming has created a “hostile educational environment” for students discriminated against because of their skin color.
Nothing happens in a vacuum, and the evolution of Mountain Lakes history is not without precedent. Across the country, those on the political right have criticized the public school curriculum as anti-white and even anti-American.
See the critical race theory debate.
This trial raises a fundamental question that may seem counterintuitive to some: is speaking out and encouraging others – in this case students – to condemn racism, somehow racist itself?
The litigation expresses concerns that the district has talked about things like “white privilege” and “institutional inequity.”
This forum is hardly a courtroom, but one central point needs to be made. If a pupil and/or his parents do not agree with a message received in class, does this constitute discrimination? Or is it just something not everyone agrees with? For example, some would argue that white privilege and institutional inequity are real concerns that should be discussed with students.
The lawsuit lists plaintiffs as BL on behalf of her child, JL. This is normally done to protect a minor’s identity and we will maintain that confidentiality here.
However, the reality is that Mountain Lakes is not a big city and many people in town seem to know who the complainants are.
So much so that BL released a statement through his attorney, Ronald A, Berutti, Cedar Knolls. It’s here:
“For two years I have been in dialogue with the Mountain Lakes School District on a basic issue of discrimination. I believe that the Mountain Lakes School District has been influenced by the dominant national narrative and local social groups to push specific messages that are not fair and equal to all students I am concerned that the school district is working with selected groups in private meetings and via email without transparency or input from all parents in a public forum .
“Even in times of national unrest, the school district must adhere to district policy and follow state and federal laws. It is unfortunate that we live in a time when the accountability of our public institutions is being met in our community – and our country – with intimidation and personal attacks. My intention is not political and does not aim to start a movement. It is simply up to our schools to follow the policy and the law and end discriminatory practices.
“My family has unfortunately been subjected to harsh judgments, insults and intimidation. We are humbled and appreciate the support of so many people in our city and across the state who have raised similar issues in their school districts but are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation. I hope this matter will be resolved for the sake of the next generation.
In addition to an award of damages, the suit seeks to prohibit district programs from making claims of “white privilege” and implied systematic injustice due to skin color.
The lawsuit also seeks to bar the district from receiving federal funds until — and unless — it ceases its “discriminatory” practices. It may be more symbolic than real; local school districts do not receive as much federal funding.
A message left this morning with the Superintendent of Schools, who was named as one of the defendants, has yet to be returned.
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