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Student suing charter school over being forced to associate aspects of his identity with oppression

Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus in Las Vegas, Nevada is a publicly funded charter school. A lawsuit is alleging that the school created a hostile environment for students by instructing them to associate aspects of their identity with oppression. It was filed by high school senior William Clark.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by Clark. He claims he was forced to take the course  “Sociology of Change” in order to graduate.

Clark’s mother is Black and his deceased father was White. He claims he felt discriminated against and harassed by various aspects of the course. That includes an alleged assertion that by not identifying with an oppressive group, students were exercising their privilege or underscoring their status as an oppressor.

Gabrielle Clark, William’s mother, is joining her son in seeking damages for severe mental and emotional distress, as well as allegedly “permanent” damages to his academic career.

The lawsuit alleges several constitutional violations including compelled speech, viewpoint discrimination, retaliation, invasion of privacy, denial of equal protection, and infringement of the establishment clause. The defendants committed “intentional and retaliatory discrimination on the basis of color, race and religion” and gender discrimination.

Clark was not allowed to not take the class or attend a different one. The school mandated that he complete it, according to the complaint.

One of the instructional slides that are being included in the complaint clearly lists dominant groups in American culture as “white,” “male,” “middle/upper class,” “heterosexual,” and “protestant/Christian,” while “everyone else” is classified as “submissive.”

The teacher named as the defendant in the lawsuit is Kathryn Bass. She is said to associate elements of her own identity such as being “White, Irish, American citizen” with “privilege.” Others such as “female” and “working class” are associated with an “oppressive” label. Meanwhile, she says she’s “both privileged and oppressive” in her identifying as “bisexual” and having a mental health disability.

Bass also allegedly addressed students as “social justice warriors,” taught students that “[B]lack prejudice does not affect the rights of white people,” and used a Spongebob Squarepants meme to argue “reverse racism doesn’t exist.”

Clark along with other students objected to the “critical race theory” being pushed upon them in class. The complaint, which was filed in a Nevada district court, claims that Bass “terminated class discussion” in response to Clark’s claim that “everyone can be racist” and “that prejudice anywhere from anyone can harm others.”

“For this protected speech and others like it, Defendant Kathryn Bass terminated class discussion immediately with the intent to chill and discourage future objections to Defendants’ sponsored politicized ideology,” the complaint reads. It also points out that although the school has encouraged other forms of dissent, such as “occupying a cafeteria,” that didn’t apply to Clark.

Bass is not the only one named in the suit. Other higher-level officials were accused of being involved in pushing the curriculum onto students.

Gabrielle stated that the instruction her son received created psychological distress for both of them. “I was really worried about his physical safety,” she said.

Her son is “generally regarded as [W]hite by his peers,” according to the complaint, and has “green eyes and blondish hair.”

“Defendants, who include a state-funded and sponsored charter school, teachers and senior administrators, have deliberately created a hostile educational environment for Plaintiff William Clark, who, unlike his classmates appears to be and is regarded by his peers as white,” the complaint reads. “Defendants thus discriminated on the basis of race and color, in addition to sex, gender, and religion, in violation of Title VI and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”

The mother also claims that the instruction violated her rights as a parent and contradicted ideas she conveyed to her son about Christianity and family.

One of the slides entitled “Institutions + Oppression,” lists institutions with apparent instruction on how they oppress others. Under “Family,” the slide reads “reinforce racist/homophobic prejudices.” The description for “religion” similarly reads “homophobic prejudices” and “right versus wrong judgment.”

Gabrielle also said: “I tried to instill in all of my children that you need to respect everyone and treat everyone the same … and do what Martin Luther King said. You don’t judge people on the color of their skin. You judge them on the content of their character.”

The school claims it has not been served with the lawsuit yet.

The Clarks are bringing the first high-profile lawsuit to bear over “critical race theory.” It will be precedent-setting.

Racialized material that was exposed as coming from federal agencies, prompted the Trump administration to issue an executive order and ban training involving certain ideas concerning race and identity. Just before the election, Trump installed a commission he said was designed to promote “patriotic education.”

The Clarks’ lawsuit includes a claim that the school infringed on his privacy by requiring him to fill out a form identifying himself with certain identity categories.

Bass’ course appeared to extend beyond lessons about individual identity and encouraged students to read facts through an ideological lens. One of the slides, labeled “Institutional Examples,” makes statements such as “when a woman makes 2/3 of what a man makes at the same job… that’s institutionalized sexism.”

Another example reads: “When psychiatric institutions and associations ‘diagnose’ transgender people as having a mental disorder… That’s institutionalized gender oppression and transphobia.”

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