Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools paid Stamped coauthor Jason Reynolds $6,500 to speak to the community at Cabin John Middle School for a 45-minute Zoom call in June 2021, according to documents received by Parents Defending Education in response to a public records request.
In addition, according to Invoice No. 2511255A, dated Sept. 1, 2020, the school district paid Follett School Solutions Inc., a Chicago-based book distributor, $14,124 for 1,200 copies of Stamped distributed at Cabin John Middle School in Potomac, Md.
Parents Defending Education made its first public records request to Montgomery County Public Schools for the amount of money spent on the Stamped books in Sept. 16, 2021. After numerous delays to repeated requests, we received the final dollar amount for the books purchased on Dec. 8, 2021.
A school district official wrote: “Every student and staff member at Cabin John Middle School received a copy of the book.” Reynolds cowrote the book with Ibram X. Kendi, an ideologue promoting the divisive ideology of critical race theory.
The purchases come amidst growing signs of critical race theory in Montgomery County Public Schools, under the guise of “anti-racism” work. Montgomery County is a suburb right across the border from Washington, D.C.
- Between Nov. 10, 2020, and Feb. 25, 2021, the school district has spent $941,680 for an “anti-racist system audit” by Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium Inc., a consultant based in Bethesda, Md., in Montgomery County. The details of the contracts can be viewed in our report for Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium Inc. in Parents Defending Education’s Consultant Report Card.
- Of that amount, on Nov. 10, 2020, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland awarded a $454,680 one-year contract to Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium Inc. as its “Anti-racist System Audit Consultant” for fiscal year 2021. The goal of the audit was to create “equitable outcomes for every student’s academic and social-emotional well-being,” according to a memo from then-superintendent Jack R. Smith. The county filed its request for proposal in October 2020.
- On Feb. 25, 2021, according to documents received by Parents Defending Education, Montgomery County Public Schools spent $250,000 for a fiscal year 2021 contract extension of Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium Inc.’s “MCPS Systemwide Anti-racism Equity Audit.”
- Then, on July 20, 2021, Montgomery County Public Schools spent another $210,000 for its fiscal year 2022 “MCPS Systemwide Anti-racism Equity Audit.”
On Nov. 22, 2021, Monifa McKnight, interim superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, was scheduled to speak at an event, titled, “Eliminating Institutional Bias: How New Montgomery County Public School and Critical Race Theory Could Help,” but pulled out, with other staff officials speaking on behalf of the district. Also speaking at the event: Byron Johns, the chair of the NAACP of Montgomery County, and Janel George, director of the Racial Equity in Education Law and Policy Clinic at Georgetown University.
The promotional poster for the November 2021 event said: “Discover the role that ‘critical race theory’ could play in addressing this issue” of “racial and ethnic disparities.”
Across the Potomac River in Virginia, Arlington County Public Schools also purchased Reynolds’ book for its staff and students.
‘Do the Work’
What’s more, according to Order No. 63235731, Ashburton Elementary School, based in Bethesda, Maryland, in the school district, paid $420 for 70 copies of a controversial book, This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work, by author Tiffany Jewell, pushing ideas from the ideology of critical race theory.
Some of the quotes in the book, culled by concerned parents:
- “If you area white, light (like me), or a non-Black Person of the Global Majority, use your privilege and your proximity (or closeness) to the center of the dominant culture box to fracture the very foundation of our racist society.” (page 96)
- “If you are white, step aside.” (page 129)
- “I do want to be clear, I don’t believe in catering to the comfort of white people in anti-racism.” (page 144)
‘Cannot use instructional materials funding’
Emails received by Parents Defending Education in response to a public records request reveal how school district staffers deftly discussed how they could fund the Jason Reynolds event through certain buckets of funds and not “instructional” funds. Ultimately, the school district spokesman said that the Cabin John Middle School PTSA “supported the event by paying half the cost for Mr. Reynolds to speak to staff.”
- In the late morning of Thursday, March 4, 2021, Cabin John Middle School Principal John Taylor emailed a copy of “our signed contract for a Cabin John wide Author event to culminate our community reading of Stamped,” to a financial specialist in the school district, asking, “What else do we need to finalize this process?”
- That afternoon, the financial specialist asked another staffer, “Is there any MCPS regulation for this kind of event?” She further asked: “May we pay the cost by [REDACTED] account?”
- The staffer responded that the funds couldn’t be paid by “instructional materials funding,” but rather a bucket of funds from the “Extracurricular Activities Program,” or “ECA.”
- The staffer wrote: “You cannot use instructional materials funding to pay a person or vendor for a service. I know that your school did not submit any funding request for the Achievement-focused ECA Program, so I would like to have central services help with some of the cost of this event. If we pay for half the cost, do you have available funding in your IAF account for the other half?”
- The financial specialist responded that the middle school could pay half of the funds from “IAF,” or the “Independent Activity Funds.” The district describes those funds as “established to promote the general welfare, education, and morale of students, as well as to finance the recognized extracurricular activities of the student body.”
According to a copy of the contract for Reynolds’ “Virtual Author Visit/School-Wide Read,” the contract was signed in early April 2021 by Cabin John Middle School Principal John Taylor and Erin Simpson, director of Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau. Cabin John Middle School is based in Potomac, Maryland.
The event was held on June 4, 2021, with a 30-minute talk and 15-minute Q&A. The audience was identified as about 900 middle school students, grades six through eight, and school faculty.
Parents are raising questions about the use of taxpayer funds for the controversial book and author.