In May of 2020, a video emerged showing a Mountain Brook, Alabama, a young student with a swastika painted on his back. City education administrators sent a letter to parents of the district’s six schools describing the video as an anti-Semitic incident that was “disturbing, dangerous and scary,” and promising to find a way to “make all students feel safe and comfortable in our schools.”
To get there, the school district partnered with the local branch of the Anti Defamation League which has been offering anti-racism and diversity-related resources to schools since the late 1980s.
Then in late June, according to AL.com, “police escorts lined the doors of Mountain Brook City Hall as the room filled to capacity. Dozens of parents were packed behind its glass-paned doors to hear the city council’s response to questions surrounding the district’s diversity programming.”
The controversy was over the ADL’s program known as No Place for Hate, which the ADL described as “making students globally responsible and conscious citizens by helping to foster a more welcoming and inclusive school community.”
The Mountain Brook Schools superintendent signed a contract with the ADL last February to institute anti-bias training for educators, which included defining hate speech and symbols in the code of conduct; providing more diversity opportunities for the school community; developing partnerships with organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center; and developing positive relationships with diverse communities.”
In June, anti-ADL messages circulated on social media, warning parents about the No Place for Hate program and describing ADL as a group mired in “controversial issues.”
Shortly thereafter, 625 parents signed a letter to the school board expressing concerns about the ADL training containing elements of Critical Race Theory.
The parents wrote: “Everyone signing onto this letter endorses the original purpose behind ADL’s founding – fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry. But ADL’s website reflects that its mission has expanded to many other politically controversial areas and the positions it has taken in those areas and the actions to promote such causes are at odds with the sincerely held beliefs of many, many Mountain Brook citizens.” They noted: “Public school systems should strive to educate children while being politically neutral in its policies and programming.”
AL.com cited Krissie Allen, an English and American studies teacher at Mountain Brook High School, who was one of the hundreds of teachers who attended an anti-bias training, and reported that the training “reduced everything down to gender and race.” She suggested that “it does not help discussion and freedom of thought in the classroom to teach students that they have to be walking on eggshells.”
The Mountain Brook Board of Education on July 8 announced that “recently, some have questioned whether MBS either intentionally or unintentionally aligned itself with a particular ideology in implementing baseline anti-bias training for our teachers, speculating that political viewpoints were being inculcated during the training.”
The board added that it “remains united in our conviction that pursuing strategic goal number four is worthy and is an important component to providing an effective, challenging, and engaging education for every one of our students. […]Additionally, MBS will engage with the Diversity Committee to ensure that a robust range of perspectives continues to be represented.”
In the FAQ section of the board’s announcement, the Q, “Will Mountain Brook Schools teach Critical Race Theory?” was answered: “No. MBS has not adopted any curriculum outlining diversity topics that will be implemented in MB classrooms, including Critical Race Theory. Also, MBS has not adopted any books in response to the diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
In response to the Q, “How frequent are bullying issues in Mountain Brook Schools?” the board wrote: “With more than 4,000 students attending Mountain Brook Schools, various issues arise on a daily basis. No school is immune to negative behavior and bullying issues. MBS works directly with families and students on issues that arise through our teachers, counselors, and school administrators. While most situations are resolved in confidence, occasionally formal complaints are filed with local school administrators. Each situation is investigated, and every attempt is made to resolve or prevent the issue while protecting the privacy of the students and families.”
The ADL is furious at being blamed for promoting CRT in MBS. They addressed the Alabama city parents, saying, “In a time of soaring anti-Semitism and hatred across the nation, we are deeply concerned about the Mountain Brook Schools district’s decision to disassociate from ADL and our education initiatives. Particularly for a city that has had many issues of anti-Semitism and hatred over the past several years, the district’s intentional and unexplained distancing from ADL—the nation’s leading voice on anti-Semitism—is very troubling.”
ADL also said, “We are leaving Mountain Brook Schools with no indication that the issues of antisemitism in the community are being addressed. Indeed, they feel worse.”
Channel 6, WBRC interviewed Elizabeth Goldstein, a Jewish parent who said Mountain Brook needs the training.
“As a child, as a Jewish child growing up in Mountain Brook, in the second grade when a girl told me she could not play with me because I killed Jesus,” Goldstein said, adding, “It’s still happening, it’s happening to my friend’s children in this school.”
ADL is on the record in favor of Critical Race Theory (Extremists See Critical Race Theory as Evidence of “White Genocide”), arguing that “extremists are trying to harness debates around CRT to perpetuate the white supremacist conspiracy theory that the white race is under attack. Some extremist groups and individuals have taken real-world action to ban CRT and policies they believe to be influenced by CRT. This opposition has taken the form of flash demonstrations, protests, participation in board meetings, propaganda distribution, and online posts. They are using this debate as an opportunity to promote well-known anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, widen the arena of perceived “anti-white” influence to include bedrock societal institutions, like schools, and to distribute propaganda they hope will lead to radicalization.”