Right-wing parent advocacy group Moms of Liberty’s Southern chapter is protesting the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in schools, claiming that portions of his work traumatize children. Furthermore, the group claims that teaching children about the civil rights movement should be prohibited.
The Moms of Liberty’s Williamson chapter president, Robin Steenman, filed a formal complaint with the Tennessee Department of Education on behalf of the organization. She claimed that the Williamson County Schools district is teaching critical race theory to pupils by using the Great Minds K-5 curriculum Wit & Wisdom.
Books taught in their elementary second-grade module about the lives and contributions of key civil rights leaders were among the curriculum aspects highlighted in the complaint. “Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington,” by Frances Ruffin, and “Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story,” by Ruby Bridges, were two novels specifically mentioned.
The organization objects to the accurate depiction of the fight for desegregation of the American South in the King book, which includes actual photographs of segregated drinking fountains and “white firemen blasting Black children to the point of ‘bruising their bodies and ripping off their clothes.’”
“Some students are visiting counselors to overcome the emotional damage imposed on them by what they learned in Tennessee public education,” according to the group.
“Targeting elementary-age children with daily teachings on battling past injustices as if they were occurring today” violates Tennessee law, according to the lawsuit, and “sows the seeds of racial discord.”
The Tennessee statute cited in the complaint as a result of Gov. Bill Lee signing an anti-critical race theory bill into law on May 24. The goal is to limit what state K-12 public school educators can talk about in their classrooms regarding historical facts that demonstrate how racism has pervaded American life.
The organization’s claim was denied despite the law. The Department of Education said that due to a technicality, it is unable to investigate the complaints.
Because the law was only passed this spring, State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said in a letter to the organization on Nov. 23 that her department is only “allowed to examine complaints that happened during the 2021-22 school year and subsequent school years.”
Schwinn also made it clear that she would not take sides in their dispute.
“Please note that the department has not made a judgment regarding the merits of these complaints by declining to investigate them,” she continued. “We encourage you to cooperate with the Williamson County School District to resolve the issues and concerns raised in your complaint and assure state law compliance.”
The Williamson County School Superintendent, Jason Golden, responded to the Moms of Liberty’s complaint by saying that critical race theory is not being taught to the pupils. The Wit & Wisdom program is “in full conformity with Tennessee state law,” according to a spokeswoman for the Great Minds, the company behind it.