In a majority-white school district in suburban Dallas, Texas, a black male school principal was fired over accusations of illegally teaching or spreading Critical Race Theory. A Texas Tribune article couched the controversy in terms of anti-black racism in a majority-white city.
After George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minnesota, Colleyville Heritage High School principal James Whitfield sent a letter to his school’s community that declared systemic racism is “alive and well.” Part of what he wrote said, “Education is the key to stomping out ignorance, hate, and systemic racism… a necessary conduit to get ‘liberty and justice for all.’”
Whitfield was placed on administrative leave this year after some parents accused him of pushing Critical Race Theory without permission when he issued the 2020 letter to the community.
Whitfield told the newspaper that the current controversy was “not the first time [he] felt his race was affecting how he was being judged as a principal.” He was previously reprimanded by the school district for romantic photos on social media with his wife from a decade ago, which he acknowledged was an indication that the community “would have that kind of power over me.”
Whitfield’s employer, Grapevine Colleyville Independent School District, voted unanimously to not renew Whitfield’s contract beyond the 2021-2022 school year. He could appeal the decision and work the next school year in the same position, but he will have to make his case to the board in order to receive a new contract.
But the vote came after speeches were made in support of or opposing Whitfield’s contract renewal. During the meeting, over thirty of Whitfield’s supporters spoke. One resident and supporter told the audience that she grew up in the “Jim Crow South” and claimed that Whitfield’s treatment was part of “an old playbook” from that era of segregation.
Whitfield claimed on Facebook that he “was not given any clear reasoning behind the decision and was not given a timetable regarding further steps. I was simply told that it was in the best interest of the district.”
For context, outside of his letter about George Floyd and racism, it is unclear whether Whitfield pushed Critical Race Theory in the classroom from his school principal position. It is also important to note that Whitfield, in 2020, became the first black principal in the high school’s 25-year history.