By Micah Morrison
As parental concern mounted over racial indoctrination in local schools during the recent Virginia gubernatorial race, a mantra emerged from the Democrat camp and the media: Critical Race Theory had “never been taught” in Virginia schools. That’s from then-Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, who in case anyone missed the point, added that the concerns about CRT were nothing but a “racist dog whistle.” The media agreed. Critical Race Theory is “not part of classroom teaching in Virginia,” reported the New York Times. Axios managing editor Margaret Talev said on CNN’s “Inside Politics, “let’s just say for the record in case anyone doesn’t know, they don’t teach Critical Race Theory to kids in kids’ K-12 schools. That’s not a thing anywhere in the country, including Virginia.” The claim was repeated elsewhere on CNN. It was dogma over at MSNBC.
Is CRT taught in Virginia schools? A Judicial Watch investigation provides the answer.
Critical Race Theory is the latest front in the decades-long war of the Left against American values. Imported from far-Left academics in American universities, its hard-edged identity politics portrays the United States as a country so steeped in white supremacy and racism that it must be destroyed to be saved.
Focusing on Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County, with more than 83,000 students and 5,700 teachers in the Loudoun County Public School district, Judicial Watch obtained 3,500 pages of records from the school system under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The documents reveal a district suffused with Critical Race Theory and under intense pressure from school administrators, outside consultants, and powerful state and national organizations.
CRT in Loudoun County public schools starts at the top, with pressure from school superintendents and the state’s Democratic Party leadership. In a July 2020 email to school board members, for example, then-Superintendent Eric Williams notes an upcoming education summit hosted by Governor Ralph Northam and featuring “educators and leaders from across the state to explore the implications of institutional racism in public education and raise state discourse and action around courageous teaching and leading, equity, and the principles of anti-racism.” Day Two of the summit, the memo notes, “is for Superintendent Teams, Administrators, School Board Members, and Division Level Equity Leads. Both days will include a keynote address by Dr. Bettina Love.” Dr. Love is a prominent CRT activist.
Copied on the memo is Nyah Hamlett, then-chief of staff to Williams and a key strategic adviser. Hamlett already had come under fire from school board members for blogging the CRT-related themes that “Restorative Justice, culturally responsive instructional frameworks, and anti-racist curriculum for educators, students, families, and caregivers are essential to authentic equity work.” In January, Hamlett left Loudoun County to become superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system in North Carolina.
Also copied on the memo was Lottie Spurlock, director of equity for the Loudon County school system and a forceful advocate for CRT teachings. Virginia’s West Nova News reported that Spurlock’s “Equity Team has been part of the controversial push by LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams” on Critical Race Theory. In a move that later came under sharp criticism, LCPS paid more than $400,000 to an outside consultant, the Equity Collaborative, for staff development in CRT frameworks. The outside consultancy work would prove pivotal in advancing CRT in Loudoun County schools.
In 2019, the Equity Collaborative was paid $314,000 “for coaching and meetings,” West Nova News reported. Of “the taxpayer funds spent on Critical Race Theory, $120,000 was spent on an eight-day assessment and $32,000 for a four-day plan and $10,000 for two days of work by Jamie Almanzán, the leader of The Equity Collaborative each month for a total of $90,000.” In 2020, the Equity Collaborative billed the school system another $100,000, the news site reported.
Other groups were pressing the CRT agenda as well. In a memo widely circulated to LCPS senior staff, the African American Superintendent’s Advisory Council issued a series of “recommendations on equity.” Much of the document, as in much of the debate among educators about CRT, includes well-meaning suggestions, such as sharper metrics to monitor student progress and learning differences.
But other recommendations are straight out of the CRT playbook. The Advisory Council recommendations included “incorporation of racism, racial equity and social justice in the Standards of Learning;” creating a “score…related to school climate that includes indicators related to antiracism and culturally responsive and inclusive learning environments;” and in a project smacking of political re-education, “requirement for educator preparation programs to include programs of study and experiences that prepare teachers to be culturally responsive educators.”
In August 2020, the Loudoun County branch of the NAACP issued a “Call to Action to Combat Systemic Racism.” The main guests for the Zoom meeting would be senior members of the Loudoun County Public Schools system, including Superintendent Williams, Chief of Staff Hamlett, and Director of Equity Spurlock. The only problem was, nobody at the NAACP bothered to invite the Loudoun County guests in advance. We have “respectfully declined the invitation to attend after the NAACP declined to attend a Closed Session with the School Board to explain their proposals,” a draft letter from the LCPS to the NAACP noted.
In January, Superintendent Williams left Loudoun County to become head of a school district in Houston. He was replaced by Scott Ziegler, an assistant superintendent.
Ziegler got right to work. Recognizing the growing controversy over CRT—parents were taking a stand at school board meetings, media coverage had intensified, and social media was heating up with criticism—the new superintendent doubled down on racism as the central threat to Virginia education.
On March 19, in a widely shared email, Ziegler released an “Interim Superintendent Update: Rumors Concerning LCPS Equity Work.” He wrote that “misperceptions” were “being reported by certain media outlets and social media” and his update would “clarify” the record. The school system’s “equity priorities,” he noted, were “not an effort to indoctrinate students and staff into a particular [read: CRT] philosophy or theory.”
However, Ziegler noted, the 2019 Equity Collaborative assessment had “identified race as the most prevalent problem” inside Loudoun County public schools—a problem greater than “poverty, learning disabilities, academic expectations and discipline practices.” Think about that for a moment.
Ziegler defended staff training in a CRT framework. “The Equity Collaborative recommended professional development for staff in the area of recognizing the social and cultural differences in our diverse student body,” he wrote. “…The goal of this work was to raise the racial consciousness and equity literacy of LCPS’ staff…The professional development offered to LCPS employees…asks employees to examine their own personal biases and how they might affect student instruction and interactions with the community. Concepts such as white supremacy and systemic racism are discussed.”
Just don’t call it Critical Race Theory. “LCPS has not adopted Critical Race Theory as a framework for staff to adhere to,” Ziegler insisted. “Social media rumors that staff members have been disciplined or fired for not adhering to the tenets of Critical Race Theory or for refusing to teach this theory are not true.”
But the record is clear. Critical Race Theory in Virginia is promoted by the Democratic Party, by school superintendents, by influential senior staff, by outside consultants such as the Equity Collaborative, and by influential groups like the NAACP. Its radical political message permeates the Virginia educational system.
Judicial Watch is the national leader in Freedom of Information Act litigation and reporting. Read our recent reports on CRT in Maryland here, in Rhode Island here, and at West Point here. In February, Judicial Watch filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Massachusetts father David Flynn, who was fired from his public school teaching position for raising concerns about CRT in his daughter’s class curriculum; watch a video presentation of the case here. And to learn how to use the Freedom of Information Act and public records requests to explore CRT in your community, this video featuring Judicial Watch Senior Investigator William Marshall will tell you everything you need to know.