A Black mom is suing her biracial son’s Nevada charter school after she claims he received a failing grade for refusing to link aspects of his identity to oppression and dominance in a sociology class.
Gabrielle Clark and her son William Clark filed a suit in U.S. District Court of Nevada against public charter school Democracy Prep Agassi Campus in Las Vegas on Dec. 22, alleging a violation of constitutional free speech and due process rights.
William Clark claims that in the class “Sociology of Change” taught by Kathryn Bass, who is named as a defendant in the suit, he was harassed and punished for refusing to attach derogatory labels to aspects of his identity.
Clark, whose deceased father was white, is “generally regarded as white by his peers,” according to the complaint, and has “green eyes and blondish hair.”
The far-right advocacy group International Organization for the Family, which has been tracking the case closely, reports that a U.S. District Court judge said at a Feb. 26 temporary restraining order hearing, “I think William is likely to succeed on the merits’ of his compelled speech claims,” saying that “defendants will have to find a way to justify the Critical Race Theory curriculum under a strict scrutiny test,” adding, “that’s a high bar to meet.”
In the class taught by Bass, a self-described “white, Irish, American citizen,” Clark was allegedly forced to reveal his race, gender, sexual and religious identities and attach labels to the identities, which the lawsuit claims violated his right to privacy.
An instructional slide included in court documents displays dominant groups in American culture as “white,” “male,” “middle/upper class,” “heterosexual,” and “protestant/Christian,” while “everyone else” is categorized as “submissive.”
Labels like “white” are associated by Bass with “privilege,” while words like “female” and “working class” are associated with “oppressive.”
The Clarks’ suit makes several explosive claims about Bass. It said she referred to the students as “social justice warriors,” and also informed them that they would have to “undo and unlearn” beliefs, attitudes and behaviors associated with oppression.
Legal filings in the case depict Bass as using a meme featuring an image of SpongeBob SquarePants to communicate to students that “reverse racism doesn’t exist.”
“Racism = Prejudice + Power. Therefore, people of color CANNOT be racist,” a slide read.
Clark and other objected to the instructor’s ideals, but that wasn’t well-received by Bass, court documents show.
When Clark said “everyone can be racist” and “that prejudice anywhere from anyone can harm others,” Bass “terminated the discussion,” the lawsuit says.
“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. The suit also indicates that the school encouraged other forms of protest like “occupying a cafeteria,” but that the same privilege seemed to not extend to Clark.
Slides from the curriculum also linked “Family,” with concepts like, “reinforce racist/homophobic prejudices,” while “religion” was characterized as “homophobic prejudices” and “right versus wrong judgment.”
The complaint also states that the school forced Clark to complete the class as a graduation requirement, instead of allowing him to replace it with another course. He ultimately received a failing grade in the class. Clark and his mother are seeking damages for the “permanent” negative implications the course will have on his “academic and professional prospects,” and expressed concern over the mental and psychological stress they both endured.
Gabrielle Clark told Fox News she feared for her son’s safety, and added, “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 suit also seeks to ensure that Clark is not denied a high school diploma and is provided with “an alternative non-discriminatory, non-confessional class.”
Several other school administrators are also named defendants in the complaint.
A spokesperson for Democracy Prep said in a statement, “Our curriculum teaches students about American democracy and movements for social change throughout our history. We strongly disagree with how the curriculum has been characterized in this filing.”
An expedited evidentiary hearing and trial is tentatively scheduled for the month of April.