AUHSD Cancels Woke Anti-Racism Program, But Stonewalls On Reasons

The CRJE's "Talking About Race" teacher training
The CRJE's "Talking About Race" teacher training
By:Matthew Cunningham

The Anaheim Union High School District (AUSHD) has cancelled its agreement with the Center for Racial Justice in Education (CRJE) to train teachers and staff in “anti-racism” and Critical Race Theory principles. That followed investigative reporting by this writer on behalf of the Independent on the radical nature of the CRJE program. 

However, the AUSHD has failed to respond to questions as to when the agreement was cancelled, why it was cancelled and how much of the “racial equity audit” and CRT-based training the CRJE had completed. The district simply said it is no longer “partnering” with the CRJE, while refusing to answer further questions about that matter.

The CRJE also did not answer a request for comment or explanation regarding the agreement’s termination.

The AUHSD’s decision to terminate the agreement is curious given the clear enthusiasm for the Racial Justice in Organizations (RJIO) program expressed by senior districts officials in e-mails obtained by the Independent via the California Public Records Act.  

As previously reported here and in the Anaheim Independent, the CRJE was hired by the AUSHD to implement its RJIO program at Cypress and Katella high schools. The RJIO is based on CRT principles and advances controversial ideas such as Martin Luther King-type color-blind racial justice is mere “white supremacy”; only white people can be racist; Asian-Americans benefit from “white privilege”; and other extreme and divisive views about race and ethnic identity.

The program is of a kind with other CRT-based programs in public schools that are fueling a growing parent backlash across the country – for example, playing a key role in upset election victories in November that gave Republicans control of Virginia’s state government.

How AUSHD Met the Center For Racial Justice In Education

On January 11, 2021, UCI’s Stephanie Ly Reyes-Tuccio e-mailed AUSHD Superintendent Mike Matsuda and other senior district staff soliciting the district’s participation in a project she was working on with UCI education Professor Adriana Villavicencio.

“Professor Villavicencio was the former Executive Director of the NY Research Alliance for Public Schools and worked with an organization in NYC, the Center for Racial Justice in Education to provide training and support to dismantle racism in schools that showed promise and impact,” wrote Reyes-Tuccio.

The training Reyes-Tuccio referred to included CJRE trainers telling parents that Asians “benefit from white supremacy” and “proximity to white privilege.”

The district quickly signaled its agreement, designating Director of Curriculum and Instruction Carlos Hernandez as the AUSHD’s lead on the partnership.

“This is so exciting!!,” Reyes-Tuccio gushed in response in a January 22 e-mail to Hernandez. “I’m thrilled Anaheim can take advantage of this opportunity!”

“I am also excited that you are giving us this opportunity to collaborate in this important project,” replied Hernandez.

A few days later, Assistant Superintendent Jaron Fried – the number 2 man in the AUHSD, who runs the monthly Board of Education meetings – sent this formal letter affirming the district’s desire to implement the RIJO program and root out the “systemic racism” he believes exists in the district.

That sort of excitement permeated communications between the AUHSD and CRJE over the next several months as they ironed out the CRJE’s scope of work in preparation for Board of Education approval in July of 2021.

During that time, however, the head of the Center for Racial Justice in Education expressed a desire to keep the details of its RIJO program closely held.

“Please do not share the scope [of work for AUHSD] with anyone outside of this group and the UCI/ACHSD leadership team,” wrote CRJE Executive Director Michelle Wonsley-Ford in a June 3, 2021 e-mail to Hernandez, Reyes-Tuccio and Villavicencio. “While a high level description of our services is available on our website, what we sent to you, Adriana and Stephanie represents a level of detail we don’t provide as general information unless we have entered into partnership conversations specifically with prospective clients who seem ready to commit but need a bit more detail to make their final decision.”

“I sincerely apologize for my error in sharing the document. Moving forward I will not share it with anyone else,” replied Hernandez, whose offense was including a staffer from the progressive OC Human Relations Commission (which contracts with AUSHD to provide “implicit bias training”) on an e-mail containing the CRJE’s scope of work.

The scope of work detailed how the CRJE would go about grafting anti-racism/CRT precepts and teachings onto the educational culture of Katella and Cypress high schools, such as installing “Racial Equity Leadership Councils” at the schools to police curriculum, pedagogy and even teacher hiring along racial and ethnic lines. 

The AUHSD-CRJE partnership continued moving forward following the Board of Education’s approval of the contract at its July 15, 2021 meeting.

As September began, the CRJE had begun implementing the various elements of its RIJO program at Katella and Cypress high schools. It conducted “Talking About Race” workshops, formed “Racial Equity Leadership Council,” and rolled out the “Racial Equity Audit,” etc.

At the same time, I published a series of articles in the Anaheim Observer about the agreement and the radical nature of the CRJE, the scope of the RJIO program, its grounding in the controversial Critical Race Theory precepts, the radical theories the CRJE was being paid to impart to district staff and the race-based methods for doing so.

I also submitted a comprehensive California Public Records Act request pertaining to the AUSHD-CRJE relations, covering the period January 1, 2021 through October 13, 2021. On November 4, the district provided a number of e-mail communications with UCI and CRJE, but only partially complied with the CPRA request for all documents and materials used in the RJIO project. 

On November 30, I submitted a similarly comprehensive CPRA covering the period of October 14 through November 30, 2021, and again requesting the district furnish all documents and materials used in the RJIO project. To date, the AUSHD has not formally acknowledged receipt of the request, as the CPRA requires, nor has the Independent received any further communication from the district regarding the public record request.

As of publication of this article, it has been 39 days since the CPRA request was submitted to the AUHSD, and there has been no response from the district – despite follow up communications from me – in violation of the CPRA.

AUSHD Gives Conflicting Explanations For Selection Of Katella, Cypress High Schools

In a September 1, 2021 e-mail, I asked the district why Katella and Cypress high schools were selected for the Racial Equity Audit. On September 9, district PIO John Bautista e-mailed the selection was based on geography:

“Part of this grant requested two high school sites. The District selected one site on the west end (Cypress) and one site on our east end (Katella).”

The problem with this answer is it isn’t true. A January 26, 2021 e-mail from AUSHD’s Hernandez to UCI’s Reyes-Tuccio gives completely different reasons for the selection:

“We selected Cypress High School because they are on the journey to improve the culture on campus. We have brought in the OC Human Relations to assist us in Staff Professional Learning and to improve relationships with their students. As the OC Human Relations MOU ends in May of 2021, the Racial Justice in Schools Opportunity would continue the work that has begun at Cypress HS.”

“We selected Katella High School because although their culture is more welcoming and inclusive, there is work to do. We also have a district wide Black Lives Matter Committee and the lead teacher is Carlo Davis, a teacher at Katella HS. Therefore, we believe that Carlo will be key in not only helping be a leader at Katella HS through the Racial Justice in Schools Opportunity, but use this to leverage his leadership role in the BLM committee and impact the entire district.”

In other words, the district’s public response was false and the selection had nothing to do with geography. Cypress – which has a plurality Asian student population – was chosen due to unspecified “culture” problems that prompted the district to bring in the OC Human Relations Council to conduct “implicit bias training” for the staff.

Katella was chosen because the district thinks it is “more welcoming and inclusive” than Katella, and the leader of the AUSHD’s Black Lives Matter Committee is a teacher there.

Which begs the question of why the AUHSD felt the need to lie?

AUSHD Drops Controversial Vendor Suddenly, Stonewalls on Why

At some point in September or October, the anti-racism project for which the AUSHD had shown such enthusiasm was dropped – suddenly and with no explanation.

On December 2, I e-mailed the district requesting two CRJE emails sent to the community as part of the anti-racism program. 

AUSHD Public Information Officer John Bautista replied in a December 10 e-mail, “AUSHD is no longer partnering with the Center for Racial Justice in Education” and the CRJE “removed access to these documents and you will need to contact them for access.”

The CRJE has not responded to requests for those letters to the community.

On December 7, I e-mailed Bautista, requesting the reasons for the cancellation, whether it was related to the Observer articles and whether the district planned to pursue “racial equity” or anti-racism” training with a different vendor.

Bautista has not responded to these questions.

On December 28, I e-mailed Bautista again, asking why the agreement was cancelled, when it was cancelled and how much of its scope of work did CRJE complete.

On January 6, Bautista e-mailed a non-reply re-stating the agreement was ended:

“Mr. Cunningham. Happy New Year. AUHSD decided not to partner with the Center for Racial Justice in Education.”

Given AUSHD’s excitement and clear commitment to the ideological goals of the Center for Racial Justice in Education’s anti-racism project, the timing of the agreement’s termination and the district’s refusal to divulge its reasons – it is reasonable to assume AUSHD leadership concluded it was not worth a potential parent backlash sparked by ongoing investigative reporting in the OC Independent.


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