Recently, in an article titled “Wellesley School District Faces Civil Rights Complaint from Parents Group,” GBH covered a civil rights complaint filed against Wellesley by an operation posing as a national grassroots movement, Parents Defending Education. The article reveals that the complaint is empty. Oh, and PDE is not national, not popular, and not on parents. From there, it just gets worse and worse.
Wellesley’s sin? He offered affinity rooms for students to process their emotions after anti-Asian attacks across the country. PDE has filed similar complaints against districts grappling with the police murder of George Floyd. The Boston Globe also covered the complaint in “A conservative group claims the safe space for students of color at Wellesley violated the civil rights of white students.” What PDE is really doing is generating a white backlash against the teaching of race and gender. The PDE also targets educators (school board members, superintendents, principals and teachers) for social media attacks, hate emails and threats. It is part of an attack on public education.
The first question to ask a group like PDE is: who finances it? The president of the PDE, Nicole Niely, refuses to answer. But there are clues. According to Center for Media and DemocracyMs. Niely is a seasoned political activist affiliated with the Koch Network. She is the president of Speech First, established in 2018 as a go-anywhere tax-deductible donation to law firm Consovoy McCarthy to sue universities over racial justice issues. Tax records show that Speech First paid the company $ 950,000 in 2018. Consovoy McCarthy is led by a former clerk to Judge Clarence Thomas and represents Donald Trump in the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation. Now Consovoy also represents Parents Defending Education. Do you know of a core parent group who can put this sort of thing together in a matter of weeks? That’s a lot of baking sales.
The Wellesley complaint reached PDE from an anonymous source and as Mrs Niely confessed, she has no idea who submitted it to PDE or if anyone in Wellesley agrees with the complaint. The secret is sacred. Consider the page on the PDE website that teaches How to create “Woke At” pages. It provides detailed instructions on how to set up “an anonymous and secure Instagram page”. Start by creating a “cannot be linked to you” Gmail account. Gmail is recommended because the site creator will also need to set up “an anonymous Google form.” . . which allows you to receive anonymous tips “which protect the identity of the informant, even from the administrator of Woke At. At all times” we recommend to err on the side of secrecy “.
The Woke At instructions encourage local PDE spies to check out educators’ social media pages that may reveal awakening attitudes. the Understand the awakened jargon The page lists terms such as “social justice” or “anti-racism” that the group finds offensive. Questions to Ask School Leaders provides questions that can be asked of school officials awake “with cameras rolling”.
PDE follows the model used by right-wing operations allied to Koch like Campus Reform, which attack university professors. These groups pay conservative students to report on faculty lectures and social media posts. As Professor Isaac Kamola wrote, attacks are often launched against women or teachers of color who study race or gender and take their work out of context. Grievances are filed on the Campus Reform website and migrate to other sites, perhaps to Breitbart, and sometimes even to Fox News. This generates hateful emails, social media posts, complaints and threats against university administrators. Teachers have been dismissed or sanctioned, or have had to cancel classes because of the danger. Trinity College in Hartford closed for a day due to violent threats.
So when similar threats are made against local educators, don’t view them as an unfortunate by-product. They are the goal.
Even though the Wellesley complaint leads nowhere, Ms Niely was cheerful. PDE exists to garner advertising that intimidates schools from discussing race and gender and to make maintaining public education unpleasant and dangerous. He does his job.
Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a contributor to MassPoliticsProfs.org Blog. Cunningham writes: “Full Disclosure: As an educator in the UMass system, I am a member of a union. I write about black money, democracy and the oligarchy. “