Rantz: Unhinged activists claim criticizing woke teachers is ‘alt-right,’ ‘violence’

Dec 19, 2021, 9:18 PM | Updated: Dec 21, 2021, 7:28 am
Eastlake High School. (Lake Washington School District)
(Lake Washington School District)

Some parents in the Lake Washington School District are upset with an editorial criticizing a teacher for bringing her political bias into the classroom. One argues that the criticism is “violence.”

Shila Hodgins is a humanities teacher at Eastlake High School in Sammamish. In a podcast, Hodgins admits that she and fellow educators bring political bias into the classroom. She just doesn’t see anything wrong with it because she argues, “There’s no neutral spaces, right?”

But criticizing her position, as this column did, earned the unhinged ire of activists married to the idea that their indoctrination is permissible because they don’t see anything wrong with their analysis. It prompted the superintendent into a second email about my coverage. He is desperately trying to keep his woke staff and area parents from revolting.

Push out the claim of victimhood

After my story was published, Hodgins wrote an email to staff with “a heads up” about the piece.

Hodgins claims the editorial “follows Rantz’s trend of targeting schools and teachers for talking about wearing masks or social justice.”

She ties the criticisms to “the trend seen nationwide” of threatening behavior made toward educators.

Not long after Hodgins’ email, Eastlake High School Principal Chris Bede followed up with a staff email. He notes that “Shila and Eastlake have not received any derogatory and dangerous messages about this article.” He promised to keep the “community narrative … centered on justice and human rights.”

But by then, the activists knew what to do. It’s what they always do: mobilize in support of their ideological comrade and try to silence any opposition.

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Frightened of the ‘alt-right’!

A radical leftist parent from the Lake Washington School District was not happy with my column criticizing Hodgins. She tried to rally support for Hodgins.

The parent posted images to share on social media. One claimed Hodgins is “under attack by a local alt-right media personality.” The term “alt-right” is used to describe white nationalists. It’s often purposefully misused to delegitimize mainstream conservative voices.

I’m gay, and Jewish, and very much well within the mainstream.

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Criticism is “violence.” Put away your weapon … that keyboard!

The parent also links to a public Google document with two template emails for like-minded radicals to send to the school board and superintendent. There’s one template for staff to use and another for parents and community members.

“Jason Rantz is actively harmful, violent, and damaging to our community,” the email claims.

Angry activists, apparently, can’t be bothered to write their own emails. Instead, they must copy and paste an email text that ascribes feelings to them of being “deeply concerned and frightened.”

It labels my criticism “slander,” a claim as accurate as the activist is knowledgeable about the law.

It also gives advice to community members and parents: “[Begin with a personal anecdote about how engaging in critical thinking about systems of oppression have benefited you. If you had Ms. Hodgins as a teacher directly address how her work as a teacher positively impacted you.]”

A simple demand

The parent — via the form letter — made a series of false claims by which she bases a demand.

“This pattern of Jason Rantz’s involvement in our school district has been coupled with a pattern of LWSD silence,” the email claims. “I have personally watched the district remain passive as Eastlake staff and the school as a whole have been scared for their lives.”

Scared for their lives!

The email claims that a “lack of action from the district previously has enabled Rantz to continue this pattern of disrespect and violence against Eastlake.”

This is especially nonsensical given that this is my second story about the school. Unless the superintendent is a precog, what action was expected prior to my first story?

The school gained national notoriety for its decision to cancel a 9/11 tribute at a football game out of a baseless and, frankly, irrelevant claim that some students might be offended. After I broke the story about the incident, several national outlets picked it up, including FOX News and the New York Post.

“If the district truly stands for anti-racist, equitable, abolitionist educaiton [sic], they will stand with Shila Hodgins and release a statement of support,” it notes.

The letter isn’t merely deranged. Its main assertion is wrong. The superintendent previously spoke out. In fact, he tried to bully me into silence. But he did give in to the letter’s demand.

Superintendent gives into unhinged demand letter

LWSD Superintendent Dr. Jon Holmen wrote to district parents about my story.

“My intent in writing this is to provide support for our teachers as they engage in critical dialog with students knowing issues of race, culture and politics can lead to challenging discussions,” he said.

He argues that the district’s “instructional pedagogy and teaching” benefits students by presenting issues via “multiple perspectives which is core to our commitment to equity and education for students.”

He does not, however, describe any specific instances in which students are provided multiple perspectives. Indeed, classrooms are adorned with Black Lives Matter signs and “Free Palestine” and anti-capitalist posters.

A toxic environment of fear

Several conservative and conservative-leaning students have emailed the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to note there is both a lack of ideological diversity presented, and a fear that being conservative will earn them lower grades.

While Holmen defends Hodgins — who multiple students and staff emailed me to say she’s even more partisan than my report indicates — he ignores the real concerns of the campus community. He also seems ignorant of the many quality teachers at Eastlake who tell me they are unnerved by the leftward drift and just wish they could teach students without worrying about the politics involved. They are not comfortable speaking publicly for fear of retribution.

When your goals include placating an increasingly partisan group of educators and equally fringe parents, it must be easy for a superintendent to forget to take care of all students and staff.

Superintendent picks the wrong fight

Despite attestations from the activist parent that Holmen was passive with my last story, he was quite aggressive. In fact, he pushed forward with an unprecedented attempt to stop me from a forthcoming story.

In late September, I started researching a story on a radical teacher at Eastlake High School. She was brought to my attention after a number of students, staff, and parents read my first story. They asked me to look into her antics. That story will be published soon. I uncovered shocking behavior from multiple teachers that is beyond outrageous.

But Holmen did not want me to write it. So he tried to pick a fight with me.

An all-staff email

The superintendent emailed district staff on Oct. 5 informing them of the upcoming story. They learned of it because I reached out to them for comment as I research (and continue to research) the piece.

“I unfortunately believe that Mr. Rantz’s current storyline is an invitation for threats of violence against our teacher and I am working with our legal counsel to support the safety and well‐being of our staff,” he wrote.

If you criticize a teacher for objectively outrageous behavior, you are inviting threats of violence against them? This is a rather pedestrian and lazy argument. By his own logic, wouldn’t his criticism of my work invite threats of violence against me? The intent here is to pressure me into dropping a story of tremendous community value — unless you’re an educator looking to continue indoctrinating students.

Holmen also invited me to meet with him to discuss the district’s work and tour some schools. When I told him I’d be happy to meet and visit Eastlake and other schools, he asked me for times and dates that I was available.

But after I provided the dates, the meeting was canceled. Via his communications director, Holmen said I couldn’t visit Eastlake. It was the only school in the district that I was researching because some teachers openly promote progressive political causes via signs posted in their classrooms.

Activist educators thrive on your silence

Eastlake High School employs a number of left-wing educators. Many of them work in the humanities department. Like other activists, they thrive when they’re not challenged. They’re fragile and can’t handle criticism; they’re arrogant and self-righteous, thinking only they hold the just positions.

Whether it’s activist parents or a superintendent, none of this is about protecting educators from criticism. It’s about protecting a school’s ability to push a political ideology on its students.

Left-wing educators were able to get away with the political indoctrination because few parents and media members knew it was happening. But COVID exposed what was happening in the classroom thanks to the remote learning set up.

Parents heard the propaganda coming from the speakers of their student’s laptop and they started to push back. They don’t want opinion taught as fact, and they don’t want a one-sided education for their kids. And that’s why I cover these stories.

The pushback from activists in and out of the classroom isn’t normal; it’s an overly defensive reaction because they don’t want you to know what’s happening inside the classroom. And that’s why I will continue to look into Eastlake.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Unhinged activists claim criticizing woke teachers is ‘alt-right,’ ‘violence’