(Above) Feature image of Kelli Kidwell, standing at podium, speaking at the July 11, 2023 New Hanover County school board meeting
Is Critical Race Theory (CRT) Being Applied in New Hanover County Schools?
Can an educator subtly convey a desire to instill public school students with specific ideologies without overtly announcing their intentions? Kelli Kidwell, the New Hanover County high school teacher at the center of a contentious debate for using Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a controversial book by Jason Reynolds and Ibrim X. Kendi, in an Ashley High School AP English course, seems to have accomplished just that.
An email correspondence between Kelli Kidwell and school board members was released through a public records request. Her rambling email reads as a manifesto of sorts, asserting her Constitutional right to embed an alternative view of America many would interpret as an anti-American, Communist catechism.
In her email, Kidwell unapologetically states:
“Teachers are not supposed to invest in hero worship or creating idols of historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and systems of government and economics like democracies (or democratic republics) and capitalism. Nor is it to instill hatred of or fear toward historical figures like Malcolm X and Angela Davis and systems of government and economics like communism and socialism.”
(Below) Excerpt from Kelli Kidwell’s July 10, 2023 email to the entire school board where she states Thomas Jefferson and George Washington shouldn’t be considered American heroes, however, Antisemites like Malcolm X and Angela Davis should be honored. And, Communism and Socialism should not be feared.
(Below) Kelli Kidwell’s entire four-page July 10, 2023 email to the school board. Click images to open in new browser tab.
With her adoption of the Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You book in the classroom, one would have to use mental gymnastics to believe this isn’t a call to indoctrinate students with Communist ideas.
Our Part 2 article provides a detailed discussion of ‘Stamped.’
Unfortunately, there’s more and it gets worse. Several NHCS board members praised Kidwell’s line of thinking and unequivocally support her use of the Stamped book in the classroom.
Some School Board Members Offer Kidwell Their Enthusiastic Support
As highlighted in the second installment of our series, Katie Gates, the parent advocating for the removal of Stamped from the classroom, is slated to make a presentation to the Board tomorrow (Friday, September 1, 2023) at 9am. She will be defending her stance that the book is inappropriate for an educational setting. Regrettably for Ms. Gates and commonsense parents, a number of Board members were quick to respond to the July 10th email, expressing their support for Kidwell and the use of Stamped.
Board Member Stephanie Kraybill
After reading Kidwell’s email, Board member Kraybill replied,
“Thank you for this very compelling and heartfelt letter, Kelli. I cannot believe you are having to write such a letter to your Board of Education. It makes me sad.”
“I am not in favor of granting an appeal to the decisions of the Ashley Book Review and the District’s MTAC Book Review, and certainly am not in favor of banning the book. Please know I will do my best to uphold the decisions and to keep the book in our libraries and classrooms.”
In response to Stephanie’s comment, Kidwell replied back,
“I will do whatever you think will help protect access to books for students. If that involves a public call at the Board meeting tomorrow or a testimony at a later date. Just let me know. This is a hill I am prepared to die on.”
(Below) Excerpt of the email exchange between Board Member Kraybill and AP Teacher Kidwell.
(Below) The email exchange between Board Member Kraybill and AP Teacher Kidwell.
Board Member Stephanie Walker
“Thank you so much for your very thoughtful email. Absolutely beautiful articulation from a wonderful, thoughtful, and brave teacher. Just so you know, I am absolutely opposed to removing this book…”
“We are living in weird times right now, and it seems that some of us are having to be brave and stick our necks out. …sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough, but that’s all we have right now. I truly hope and believe all this will eventually pass. Society is changing, and no amount of policy change is going to stop that. I take some solace in this.”
Board Member Hugh McManus
“Kelli,“What a powerful email. Thank you so much for who you are and what you are doing. I support you 100%…”
Board Chair Pete Wildeboer
After reading Kidwell’s email, Board Chair Wildeboer replied,
“Thank you for your valuable insight and opinion and for all you do to teach our students.”
Which is Correct: AP Teacher’s Speech or NHCS’s Records Release?
Upon review of July’s New Hanover County School Board meeting, there are inconsistencies between Kidwell’s speech to the Board and information released through Public Records Requests. At the meeting, AP teacher Kelli Kidwell took to the podium to present her case for using Ibram X. Kendi’s book, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, in her AP Language and Composition curriculum. She acknowledged that parents should have the option for alternative readings but implies that the College Board had given approval for Stamped. Neither Stamped nor another book she included, The 57 Bus, appear to be on the publicly released College Board-approved syllabus provided by NHCS . (Note: this syllabus is so heavy on far leftist reading material, it might lead some to believe it was written by UC Santa Cruz Professor and known Communist Angela Davis herself.)
Kidwell stated that MTAC approved this book. The documentation released by NHCS is unclear as to whether MTAC approved this book for its initial classroom use. Further, no completed Quality Checklist was provided for PRR 23-128 when it may have been required per Policy 3200. Further details about Policy 3200 are explained at the end of Part 2 in this three-part series.
(Below) Page 1 of an NHCS-released document describing how Stamped was procured.
(click image to enlarge)
Was Stamped actually approved for the course?
In the following video, Kidwell implies the book was approved. The College Board syllabus and NHCS PRR documents indicate it may not have been.
Watch the following video.
(Below) Kelli Kidwell speaks in defense of using Stamped to the New Hanover School Board at the July 11, 2023 meeting. At the beginning of her speech, she refers to the letter mentioned earlier in this article.
Tomorrow’s decision on the Stamped book should be straightforward. No board member should vote to keep this book because:
- Documentation does not show the book was approved by the College Board for this AP Course.
- It’s unclear if the book was approved by MTAC.
- A completed Policy 3200 Quality Checklist was not provided when specifically requested in a PRR — a logical assumption is that it doesn’t exist.
Also, as we wrote in our Part 2 article,
- Stamped is designed to indoctrinate, as written by a self-proclaimed Critical Race Theorist.
- Stamped is a tool to apply CRT in the classroom.
- The book elevates antisemites Malcolm X and Angela Davis — with an emphasis on Davis’ Communist beliefs.
- The book is not at an appropriate reading level for high school AP — the book was written for middle schoolers.
Good luck to any Republican Board member who votes to keep Stamped and buck Republican values.