Should a school PTA talk about white privilege? A minority parent in NC objects.
Conservatives around the country are attacking the Wake County school system, a Raleigh elementary school and the school's PTA over a handout about white privilege that was sent home with students.
There's been national attention since a minority parent at Hunter Elementary School complained this week that her 8-year-old son brought home a handout on understanding the concept of white privilege — the idea that white people get certain benefits due to their skin color.
School officials say the handout from Hunter's PTA was only intended for parents. But conservatives, including radio show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Todd Starnes, are accusing local school leaders of trying to politically indoctrinate students.
"The white privilege propaganda being distributed at Hunter Magnet Elementary School is disgusting," Starnes wrote Wednesday on his website. "To shame children and their parents based on the color of their skin is simply unthinkable in this day and age."
But Laura McFalls, a parent of a fourth-grade student at Hunter, defended the handouts — part of a series on understanding racism — as a way of recognizing the diversity of Hunter. Located near downtown Raleigh, the magnet school is 40 percent white, 36 percent black, 10 percent Asian and 9 percent Hispanic.
“It’s good for parents to see that the school is conscious of racial issues," McFalls said. "It’s not being ignored. It’s something that should be talked about.”
Representatives from Hunter's PTA declined comment Friday on the conservative backlash. But they've said the white privilege handout is among the excerpts they're sending of Jon Greenberg's "11-Step Guide to Understanding Race, Racism, and White Privilege."
"This is an initiative led by the PTA Advocacy Team, focusing on generating awareness and empathy to create a safe and equitable Hunter community, as it relates to race and privilege," said the handout on understanding the concept of white privilege.
The handout, which was distributed in March, includes statistics such as how most teachers and most leaders in federal government are white, and it lists examples of white privilege.
The fourth handout in the series talks about understanding the historical foundations of white privilege with examples of various federal laws throughout history that have benefited white people.
Future handouts will include topics such as racism in the criminal justice system and ways to fight racism.
School officials say the materials in the handouts are not part of the curriculum and aren't being taught in class. But some students are looking at them since they're part of the weekly folders sent home with them to give to their parents.
"Why are you trying to teach second-graders about racism?" said Amber Pabon, the Hunter parent whose complaints led to the national media coverage. "They're just there to play, learn, have fun, try to make new friends."
Over the course of the last few days, conservatives have been venting their outrage.
"The leftists in the school are trying to slough this stuff off," Limbaugh said on his show Thursday. "They say the PTA is doing it and these lessons being sent home are not really for the students, they’re for the parents. Which is a crock."
Some critics have taken to social media to complain to the school district and to Briana Pelton, Hunter's principal. Some have called for people to be fired. Pelton did not immediately return a request for comment.
"@WCPSS what is the matter with your PTA?!" Richard Dossenbach of Ohio tweeted to the district. "Students should be taught lessons to prepare them for the next school year. Not indoctrinated into a far left leaning agenda. Please pass the word to the PTA this is innapropriate (sic) behavior by supposed adults. "
Many of the complaining tweets seemed to come from people outside of North Carolina. Lisa Luten, a school district spokeswoman, said Hunter Elementary has not received complaints from the school's parents or from people in the county.
McFalls, the Hunter parent, said she can't understand why people are so angry about what the PTA has been doing.
"It’s sad," McFalls said. "It unfortunately is part of the dialogue in this country at this moment, which is why it’s even more important that these handouts are sent home.”