Remove The ADL & No Place for Hate from Mountain Brook Schools
Remove The ADL & No Place for Hate from Mountain Brook Schools
Dear Dr. Barlow and Members of the Mountain Brook Board of Education,
We write to share our deep concerns about controversial steps taken by the MountainBrook School System in connection with the stated goal of promoting diversity, including the decision to partner with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to conduct a series of training sessions for school teachers and staff. This was the subject of a recent Mountain Brook Board of Education meeting that drew much attention. Those who are signing this letter are Mountain Brook residents and Mountain Brook parents who currently have or have had children at all levels in the Mountain Brook School System and are very disappointed by these actions. We also have serious questions about the work of the Mountain Brook Schools Diversity Committee (MBSDC).
Discussing diversity can be an emotional topic. Let us state clearly that we fully support the goal of respecting individual differences, we condemn illegal discrimination and bigotry, including anti-Semitism, and we oppose bullying and harassment in our schools. At the same time, we are realistic that many divisive political decisions and activities occur under the cover of promoting diversity. These decisions and activities usually promote one-sided and highly controversial perspectives that are not representative of the Mountain Brook community at large. It is apparent to us that this is what has been happening under the auspices of the MBSDC.
It is very troubling and reflects poor judgment that the School System would align itself with a political organization like ADL. We know and respect that some in our community are supportive of ADL and will criticize our criticism of ADL and its programs, but it should have come as no surprise that there is widespread outrage within our community about the School System’s partnership with ADL. We are certainly aware that ADL promotes itself as a non-partisan organization, but its actions and stated positions on controversial topics demonstrate otherwise. To emphasize, 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.
We are practical about all this and know that there will continue to be disagreement about the merits (or lack thereof) of the ADL and its policies. We are willing to disagree agreeably. In such circumstances -- where there is deep division -- it is clear that controversial organizations like ADL should never be utilized as a resource for public schools. We want to be clear: we are not endorsing programming in our schools that promotes any particular view point or political cause.
Public school systems should strive to educate children while being politically neutral in its policies and programming. In these highly charged political times, the Mountain Brook School System needs to work much harder towards the goal of viewpoint neutrality.
Unfortunately, according to the Mountain Brook Schools website, close to 500 MBS employees have already completed the training through the ADL. As far as we know, the training materials have not been shared. We endorse the requests that have been made to make public the materials used in those sessions. We urge full transparency. We also understand that the School System is cancelling its contract with ADL. We certainly support this, and request that a copy of the cancelled contract is made public, but this is only a first step needed to restore confidence and trust that our school programs will not be used to promote a partisan agenda. There remain other problems. The Mountain Brook School website, https://www.mtnbrook.k12.al.us/Page/21499 quotes a high level administrator about the creation and work of “local school diversity committees,” including the intention to “establish a minimum of three genuine, authentic, interactive experiences that will occur in [each] school to start important conversations and enhance culture.” According to this person, these committees are also looking to revise school codes of conduct and engage in other activities to change the culture of our schools. We are highly skeptical that these efforts will accomplish anything other than promoting controversial causes from a one-sided political perspective that will lead to more division, anger and mistrust.
In light of all that has happened, we insist that the Board of Education halt any further work in this area by administrators, MBSDC or the individual committees and conduct a comprehensive review with ample opportunity for input by all interested Mountain Brook parents.
The review must be transparent and open for input. The review must explain the reasons behind the establishment of the MBSDC and each school committee, their mission and authority including their makeup and reporting structure, and how proper oversight will be provided that is representative of the Mountain Brook community. To the extent there are identifiable problems in our schools that the Mountain Brook School System believes warrant change and the creation of committees, these problems should be discussed in a public forum to allow input from as wide a group of parents with children in the Mountain Brook School System as possible with opportunity for proposing meaningful solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of our community.
We close by confirming our enthusiastic support for Mountain Brook and our schools. We want what is best for all children being educated in the system, and we respect each family’s right to embrace whatever political or social cause is suitable for their particular family. We hope that our concerns expressed in this letter are received in this spirit, and we pledge to work cooperatively and respectfully with those who might have different views. Mountain Brook schools and students have excelled by focusing on rigorous academic curricula, mainstream extracurricular activities and highly competitive athletic programs. Please do not get distracted from these fundamental objectives.