By John Klar
After a well spoken student from Essex High School vocally opposed the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) at a public town hall–style meeting to discuss CRT implementation in Vermont schools, he was promptly fired by the Essex Parks and Recreation Department. Initially, the contrived cause was “concerns around your ability to adhere to … core values,” but it was switched to “perceived threats” that “cause legitimate concern around your ability to equitably look out for the safety of everyone who attends our pools.” This is CRT in action — shame and attack anyone who dares challenge its race-based tenets, even teenage lifeguards.
The brouhaha began when 18-year-old Alex Katsnelson read a prepared statement at the Essex public CRT discussion event. Like a sad-sack sitcom, the Essex Parks & Rec bullies pounced on the kid, parsing out his words to contrive imagined sleight:
While all of your comments are concerning, several of the comments you made publicly stand out — the first being: “the residents of Essex and Westford will not stand idly by as anti-whiteness invades our school system.” The second being: “what you people plan to do is redistribute opportunity based solely on individual identity.” The third being: “This is why we have fifth graders coming home and saying they wish they were black.”
A grade-school comprehension of free speech law would inform these miscreant bureaucrats that this language does not remotely approach “threat speech” or “true threats.” Alex Katsnelson’s comments are pure political speech, in a political forum — one of the most highly protected forms of speech in American jurisprudence. Parks & Rec is guaranteeing Alex a slam-dunk lawsuit.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that speech that advocates the use of force can be restricted when it is directed to, and likely to, “incite or produce imminent lawless action.” Nothing in this student’s comments remotely approaches that strict standard. Yet the June 10 Essex P&R letter intones gravely:
The first comment mentioned above could be taken as a threat against the school and/or our community. It is aggressive and threatening and nature, while also being vague enough to elicit fear. The second comment mentioned above uses an offensive phrase “you people” while also being very vague and intimidating in nature. The third comment, along with the rest of the public comments we have referenced, shows that you do not possess, and that you cannot uphold, the Village core beliefs and values around racial equity, diversity and inclusion.
It takes a village to unconstitutionally attack a teenager. The constitutional standards that apply to government entities do not permit the censorship of employees for saying things deemed “very vague,” that “could be taken as a threat,” or that “are vague enough to elicit fear.” These bully bureaucrats are simply censoring this young man in the name of their “core belief”:
Live the “golden rule” in every interaction by demonstrating a deep regard for the diversity, needs, feelings and beliefs of all people and acknowledging the ideas and opinions of everyone.
This perfectly exhibits the pernicious nature of CRT ideology — it pretends to be inclusive but is brutally insistent on adherence to its cultish, race-based tenets. More, it disregards merit in favor of ideological compliance: Alex Katsnelson is not criticized as an unfit lifeguard — by all indications, he is superior in those qualifications. He was fired solely for his political expression in a public forum:
We have made the determination that your public comments cause legitimate concern around your ability to equitably look out for the safety of everyone who attends our pools. In addition, we feel that your public comments are likely to cause future disruption with our residents. Your comments have already begun to cause disruption amongst your peers who have seen them. Your position by its very nature requires a degree of public trust, not often found in other instances of public employment. We cannot create an unsafe environment at our pool, nor can we create a situation where any of our residents feel unsafe or unwelcome at our pool.
The Essex-Westford School Board approved the critical race theory curriculum on June 15. After thanking “those who opposed the equity policy for helping him to think more deeply about the district’s equity work,” board member Brendan Kinney exhibited his enlightened depth of thinking (and the central CRT tactic of shaming and attacking anyone who dares question it’s racist ideology):
“Historically the work of school boards has been apolitical. Yet in recent months, we’ve seen partisan tactics being used to promote a political agenda,” Kinney continued. “They spread misinformation, they take and twist comments out of context, they use false equivalence in making their arguments, and they deploy scare tactics to confuse parents and taxpayers.”
It appears as though the government actors in both Parks & Rec and the School Board are oblivious to the perverse irony in their words. Their ideology excludes the very possibility of “acknowledging the ideas and opinions of everyone” — that’s what the First Amendment does, and they seek to eliminate that protection for anyone who dares differ with their new religion.
They are eliminating lifeguards at the public pool for having differing opinions, because Vermont’s CRT advocates are determined to drown young children in a toxic experimental ideology. But that United States Constitution remains a mighty rescuer.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and the former pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield. This commentary originally appeared at American Thinker.