After widespread criticism, a school district in New Trier is backing off plans for a second all-school mandatory seminar day on race.
In the April meeting of the New Trier School District 203 Board of Education, Tim Hayes, assistant superintendent for student services, canceled plans for next year’s mandatory “white-privilege” seminar.
This decision comes after a similar seminar was held at the end of February when hundreds of students opted out of the day’s activities and parents gathered at a school board meeting to oppose the unbalanced perspectives presented to their kids.
A member of the Parents of New Trier, an advocacy group created in early 2017 to urge Hayes and other district administrators to offer opposing viewpoints, told North Cook News were glad to hear of the school board's decision.
“I think this is a wise move,” Betsy Hart said on behalf of the group. “What happened this year was so divisive — best to not repeat it."
Hayes told the North Cook News planning for the event was too difficult. Instead, he is planning an extensive activity in the student’s homeroom for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Despite her stance on the event’s original intent, Hart supported the idea of a homeroom activity.
“It is wise to do a focus on Martin Luther King on MLK Day (during extended advisories) which is what is being considered,” Hart said.
On the Feb. 28 seminar day at New Trier, more than 950 students declined to attend lectures that featured speakers with left-leaning points of view on concepts like white privilege and racism, touching on topics like protesting and activism, with a workshop called “Blackenomics 101.”
A survey conducted after the day’s events concluded showed only 5 percent of the attending students disagreed with the subject matter or wanted differing viewpoints, according to Hayes and the district. However, just about a quarter of students attended the day’s event and filled out the survey.
On the same day as the event, more than 800 people attended the board of education meeting, voicing outrage and demanding the board investigate rumors of involvement by Stand for Children Illinois, a state-level affiliate of the national nonprofit educational advocacy organization, which purportedly provided some of the content for the seminars.
Mimi Rodman, executive director of Stand for Children Illinois, said her group “had nothing to do with Seminar Day,” according to a Facebook post.
Much of the backlash came from critics voicing opposition to the event because it didn't include a conservative, right-leaning perspective.
Pat Hughes, president of the Liberty Justice Center, a conservative litigation group, told a local radio show the event is “political indoctrination.”