FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – On Friday, March 19, 2021, parents at America’s No. 1 high school had no idea what their children were about to watch one Friday afternoon as students signed into a special virtual homeroom class on “socio-emotional learning.”
But the bright yellow three stripes on the PowerPoint gave it away.
The students – who are about 70 percent Asian, 10 percent Black, Hispanic and multiracial and 20 percent white — got a lecture on critical race theory, including a video on “intersectionality,” a lecture on how their salsa dancing on international night celebration is cultural “appropriation,” a bizarre discussion on “what stereotypes might you have about your own culture” – all on a slide deck branded with the three yellow stripes of Black Lives Matter, the multimillion dollar activist organization that has a special program, “Black Lives Matter @ Schools.”
The school principal, Ann Bonitatibus, responded to a query from the Parent Teacher Student Association president, stating, “There is no critical race theory training with students.” And she deflected responsibility for the teaching, calling it “a project initiated and created by students for students.”
It has been a challenging year at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, where they go to school, not only with remote learning through the pandemic, but the crusade to racially balance the school’s demographics, with school officials abandoning the school’s merit-based, race-blind test, to gerrymander the admissions process so that more Black and Hispanic students would make the cut to attend the advanced math and science school, instead of the usual 70 percent of Asians that filled most new admissions classes.
The night before, things had gotten heated as parents pressed the school’s principal, Ann Bonitatibus, on hurtful comments she had made over recent months, presenting TJ’s many Asian students as test-prepped kids with parents with “privileges.” They were worried that the rise in hate crimes against Asians could threaten safety at TJ, especially in a year when school officials, activist alumni and the state Education Secretary repeatedly criticized Asians at the school as “overrepresented,” “toxic,” “racist,” “test-prepped” “resource hoarders,” comparing them to athletes who used illegal “performance enhancement drugs,” or, in other words, cheaters. Principal Bonitatibus had said there weren’t any “specific” threats at the school, giving parents little comfort. Just before the PTSA meeting, a group of parents sent her a letter, seeking her resignation, a request echoed during the meeting.
Parents hoped their children would have a smooth day at school.
But through a stealth marketing campaign, Black Lives Matter – the global enterprise not the cause with lowercased letters — found its way into their children’s homeroom classroom with its divisive, political agenda – putting students just one click away from the Black Lives Matter Political Action Committee and a lesson that “the characteristics of white supremacy” include “objectivity” and “right to comfort.”
This experience underscores how critical two elements are in battling the indoctrination of students in K-12 schools: the right to inspect curriculum and the right to opt-out children from certain teachings. In Fairfax County Public Schools, the right to inspect curriculum is covered in “Policies and Regulations 3002-3011” and the right to opt-out including on topics “sensitive in nature.”
Despite these protections, how did Black Lives Matter get to students?
According to “feedback” form given to students, the curriculum was “under development for the past five months” with the “TJ Equity Team,” which includes two assistant principals, and the Student Government Association.
But when the TJ PTSA president asked for a copy of the curriculum, Principal Bonitatibus forwarded the request to the school district’s Freedom of Information Act officer, because she claimed very cryptically that “the materials are a project initiated and created by students for students, as opposed to a curricular lesson prepared by FCPS staff.”
“Curricular lesson” is mumbo-jumbo for avoiding responsibility and blaming youth for staff teaching Black Lives Matter activist curriculum that shamed the mostly Asian stsud
The “feedback” form asserted the debatable point that “recent social and civil movements such as Black Lives Matter” have “highlighted the failure of America to properly address this issue” of race.
While “failure” is a debatable question, students have become a convenient cover for an agenda that Principal Bonitatibus and activist alumni from a 501(c)4 lobbying group, TJ Alumni Action Group, have been pressing to realize at the school for months long before. Since June 2020, the alumni group had been sending demands to the principal, to a warm reception, according to 800-plus pages of emails received through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Even in this case, the school used students as a convenient cover for mandatory curriculum delivered by teachers in homerooms during the school day, utilizing school time and resources.
Activist Alumni Infiltration
In one set of recommendations, the alumni leaders, who do not have children at the school, many of them, in fact, living thousands of miles away from the school, demanded “anti-racist education and reflection” in “extracurricular sessions, 8th period sessions, assemblies and elective classes,” putting the “burden” of “creating an anti-racist environment” at TJ “largely on student [sic].” Their demands also included a change of the TJ mascot. In fact, its treasurer, Anant Das, TJ Class of 2015, and its communications lead, Nicole Sbitani, TJ Class of 2007, were featured speakers in a video students watched on Friday. Both have been active lobbyists for state legislation and school board policy to eliminate TJ’s admissions test and bring “anti-racist” education to TJ.
Das lectured the students, “Simply not doing bad things is not enough,” and telling them that doing the salsa dance, a touchstone of Hispanic culture, or step dance, commonly done by Black fraternities, at the school’s wildly popular iNite, or evening of celebrations of international customs, was cultural “appropriation.” Indeed, Principal Bonitatibus, who has worn outfits native to India for iNite, had once told parents that she was horrified by iNite’s talent show when she first saw it.
Under the cover of the pandemic, the activist dreams of the principal and alumni were being realized. Except for one important fact: some TJ kids – off the charts smart on IQ tests and with commonsense – saw through the propaganda. They shared with their parents that they were being exposed to wildly political, racist and anti-Asian indoctrination.
Sending one mother video clips, a student said, “Maybe Ms. Asra would want to see these.”
I did. And before Principal Bonitatibus starts conducting a witch hunt, she and school officials need to realize: it’s theywho are breaking school policies and procedures, working with a political action lobbying group to sneak into kids’ classrooms highly controversial and radical political material that would never pass muster if parents actually had advance notice.
Parents started swapping information, and they have now filed complaints with the principal, seeking the controversial curriculum gutted from future programs in classrooms, prior notice of any political curriculum like this and immediate opt-out forms. Their ability to win this battle is critical to the wider national battle in school districts everywhere to indoctrinate, indoctrinate, indoctrinate – three yellow stripes at a time.
Parents started piecing things together. In the last period of the day – eighth period — students had a mandatory “socio-emotional learning lesson,” instead of being allowed to meet in the usual extracurricular clubs that fill that time, like neuroscience and oceanography usually meet.
For this lesson, they watched a clip from a Netflix documentary, “13th,” with a skewed history on Blacks and crime in America with radical activist Angela Davis, partisan political analyst Van Jones and other polarizing figures. No other viewpoint was presented, a violation of the school’s policy, Regulation 3280.4 about “Controversial Issues,” stating that they must be presented “impartially and objectively.”
That would have been enough to raise some eyebrows, but then homeroom teachers walked through slick premade slides to discuss the film – slides steeped in the divisive rhetoric of critical race theory, the ideology born in the 1980s at Harvard Law School with a mission to approach every issue through a racial lens and flip the old “hierarchy of human value” that negated Blacks to a new hierarchy of human value that elevates Blacks in an “Oppression Matrix” that diminishes the stories and histories of others in version of the Oppression Olympics.
In the “Preface” slide, the students got a taste of that new hierarchy with this message: “While there are countless different groups that experience racism other than the target group in 13th, African Americans are the only group of whom the majority of their ancestors were brought against their will.” Their “unique experience” was why the presentation “focuses more heavily on them.”
The slide continued with the refrain of “racism” that critical race theory ideologues want to make the mantra of the nation. Racism is a “very prevalent issue,” it stated, impacting a “variety of people and many ethnicities.” The strange differentiation of “many” ethnicities, instead of all ethnicities, as it actually turns out to be, is because critical race theory ideologues argue that white people cannot experience racism.
The slide said: “It’s important to understand racism [sic] as well as how we can work together to fight it so we can build a better future.
What was important was not only what was written down but the graphic affixed to the top of the slide: three bright yellow stripes.
Three Yellow Stripes
The three yellow stripes mean very little to most people at first glance. But those three yellow stripes have been a symbol of Black Lives Matter since 2018 when the organization’s outside graphic designers created them to unify the organization’s brand “for the launch of their apparel collection” and a “ton of assets to leverage,” as Black Lives Matter was “consistently partnering with artists and festivals.” The designers noted, “The three stripes provide a ton of creative opportunities for us to solidify a strong brand mark across all of BLM’s merch and other marketing materials.” Nowadays, they sell the “Official BLM 3 Stripe Streak Tee Youth,” for $20 and the “3 Stripe Streak Scoop Neck Flowy T-Shirt,” for $30.
The biggest clue to the ideologues behind this “socio-emotional learning” was in the final slide, “Extra Resources.”
The second bullet time – plain as day – was “Black Lives Matter,” with the shortened URL of http://bit.ly2fGemTc, which busy parents wouldn’t know takes you straight to – drum roll, please – BlackLivesMatter.com, with snappy invitations: “Join the Global Movement” and a sign up for “periodic text messages from Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.”
Yes: Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation – not a lowercased cause or mission or vision, but a multimillion dollar organization with corporate interests, political agendas and controversy in its path, including Black community leaders who feel the organization has exploited their stories to raise funds and build a largess.
Front and center on the website’s home page is the “Black Lives Matter 2020 Impact Report,” with a table of contents to the empire that is Black Lives Matter: the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Black Lives Matter Political Action Committee – a lobbying group launched in October 2020 — and Black Lives Matter Grassroots. The Global Network Foundation notes it raised $90 million in 2020. Yes, $90 million. The Black Lives Matter PAC said, “The people crave a radical, Black-led movement with our body of elected officials.”
With just one click, TJ students were being led to the political ambitions of the Black Lives Matter PAC, with its list of 2020 election endorsements, including specific politicians, including a specific school board member, Shayla Adams-Stafford, in nearby Prince George’s County, Md. It had raised $1.05 million between its launch in October 2020 through the end of December 2020.
Students were being led to direct partisan, political activism. And parents didn’t have a clue. Principal Bonitatibus didn’t write to them to give them a heads up, or a form to opt their children out of the political indoctrination.
Finally, “Black Lives Matter Grassroots” featured a section, “Removal, Resignation, or Campaign Termination of Public Officials,” that it had orchestrated from Los Angeles (of a district attorney) to South Bend, Ind. (of former mayor Pete Buttigieg).
There is a section too, “Make Our Schools Safer,” in which they celebrated reducing or eliminating police officers in “several public schools.”
“Take Action,” the website urges. “Join the Movement to fight for Freedom, Liberation and Justice,” it says, by getting alerts, signing up for updates and “wearing our dope, official gear,” which, of course, it doesn’t hand out for free. Not far below: “Donate Today,” to “end State-sanctioned violence, liberate Black people, and end white supremacy forever.”
The “Extra Resources” also included a link to the organization, Showing Up for Racial Justice, which believes “none of us can be free until we end white supremacy.” It featured on the homepage a very problematic and reductionist page, “The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture,” with “a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture,” including “perfectionism,” a “sense of urgency,” “defensiveness,” “worship of the written word,” like memos, “either/or thinking,” “power hoarding,” “individualism,” “objectivity” and – finally, a very disturbing notion to present to K-12 students — “right to comfort.”
The final bullet point led to a shocking video, “On Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement,” by a first-generation Korean-American woman, Kaiti Yoo, who flashed the image of TIME cover with smiling young students beside the headline, “Those Asian-American Whiz Kids,” as she waxed on about learning to “justify our existence through our work, our grades, our accomplishments.” The documentary laid out a central narrative of critical race theory ideologues like Ibram Kendi and Hanna Nicole Jones, who argue, like Yoo in the video, Blacks and Asians “don’t experience this country in the same way,” because Asians didn’t come to the U.S. as slaves.
It laid out the guilt trip thrust on Asians from critical race theory activists to support radical Black goals as the only way to support “justice.” It’s a biased, problematic and shame-based video for anyone pursuing the “American Dream” without blind support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
It’s wildly inappropriate, unhealthy and potentially emotionally damaging to thrust on students at a mostly Asian school, caught in a race war of Principal Bonitatibus’s making. At 30 seconds, the film featured an image of the American flag with a sign in front of it that reads, “The American Dream is Over.”
Back in the class discussion, beside an image of three seemingly white people, a slide, “Whiteboard Discussion,” asked curiously, “What stereotypes might you have about your own culture and how can you work to change these perceptions.”
It was a strange question to students in a mostly minority school.
The propaganda of Black Lives Matter didn’t have to make sense. It had one theme to drive home. It was all over the slides. Racism. Racism. Racism. If you didn’t see the entire world through the lens of race, this was part of the indoctrination campaign to make sure you did.
The slide with the “Summary of the 13th” concluded beside bullets of stars: “Racism has persisted and evolved as an institution.” That concept is key to the refrain by critical race theory ideologues that unequal outcomes, from education at advanced learning high schools, like TJ, to academia was the result of “systemic racism.”
In the bullets, the PowerPoint noted, “Criminals are constitutionally deprived of freedom,” as if that is a matter to correct. Finally, the slide concluded, “RACISM IS NOT A CONCEPT OF THE PAST,” to keep hammering away that single, insular point.
As if this damage wasn’t enough, Principal Bonitatibus planned more. She had sent a letter to parents and students last June, after George Floyd’s death, indicating not only that she wanted to change admissions but she wanted to change the school’s mascot, the Colonials. She wrote, “During the Colonial period, there were leaders who believed those with black or brown skin were uncivilized and not capable of being educated. I speak for us all when I assert this is not a value we share as a TJ community. Yet, our mascot is a Colonial. Can our community support dismantling a symbol that perpetuated racism in our country?”
Parents from China and India, who had lived through colonial rule, were aghast at her misrepresentation of what the “Colonial” meant in not only U.S. history but global history. The “Colonial” was a symbol of liberation from British colonization, an imperfect symbol but yet an important one.
The “Feedback on the 13th Lesson” offered a harbinger of things to come. Later “this springtime,” in this special time reserved for “socio-emotional learning,” Principal Bonitatibus planned to expose the students to a “follow-up lesson” “concerning TJ’s mascot (the Colonial)” and “its connotations.” The next “socio-emotional learning” blocks will be April 9, April 21, May 5, May 21 and June 2, according to staff.
With little interest in full disclosure and transparency, Principal Bonitatibus and her cronies readied themselves for that 8th period. But, when asked about the mascot change, she suddenly reversed course and said that the discussion on the Colonial mascot was being cancelled, pending guidance from the school district.