Rantz: School used unsubstantiated hate speech claim to push kids into equity training

May 10, 2022, 6:14 PM | Updated: May 11, 2022, 10:07 am

Kirkland Middle School (KiMS) used wholly unsubstantiated claims about hate speech on campus to justify left-wing equity training for kids. What’s worse, the school appears to have cooked up data to justify the training after it had already begun. The incorrect data may have been used to address the complaints of two parents who questioned the hate speech claims.

According to emails shared with the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, KiMS principal Niki Cassaro alleged there was “an increase in the use of racial and identity slurs.” She said the incidents were occurring across all grade levels and were “pervasive rather than a single isolated incident.” Consequently, the school conducted student training to discuss the importance of diversity and the dangers of hate speech and slurs. The district, through a spokesperson, confirmed the training came “in response to a trend” about biased behavior.

But the district has not been able to provide any evidence of any pervasive use of racial or identity slurs. The only data that exists suggests the opposite is true: that students aren’t experiencing any hate on campus. That didn’t appear good enough for the school.

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A look at the partisan training

The equity training was provided across four days starting on April 25, where the students learned why they were undergoing the focus on hate speech.

“Many students at KiMS are being unkind and disrespectful to one another through their words and actions. There has been a considerable increase in the use of hate speech, derogatory terms, and various slurs. We are going to take this week to reflect on how our choices in words and actions affect ourselves, those around us, and our community,” one slide said.

The training also claimed that “KiMS has a zero-tolerance policy for words and actions that make anyone feel disrespected or unsafe.” This is untrue. No such zero-tolerance policy against making someone feel disrespected exists.

The training also featured the Pyramid of Hate, an oft-used political resource for anti-racism training. It explains different ways that progressives believe bias is expressed, such as microaggressions, lack of awareness over one’s privilege, criminal justice disparities, cultural appropriation, unequal media representation, and jokes.

The lesson ended with an ask: that students take a survey about bias they may have witnessed or experienced. The school tried very hard to get a specific result.

Cooking the results?

The student survey was anonymous and asked a number of personal questions, including inquiring about the gender identities of the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and whether or not they felt safe and respected at school. A total of 483 students answered the question.

For the most part, the prompts about bias in school are non-controversial, such as “I feel respected by my peers…” followed by “yes,” “no,” and “sometimes.” But the students went into the survey right after being presented with left-wing claims of bias. If a white student told a black student that she didn’t experience white privilege, if the black students felt slighted by the “lack of awareness,” it would be a form of bias that could be affirmatively answered in the survey.

But one prompt popped out to students and their parents.

The prompt said, “I have heard someone use a form of hate speech or say derogatory remarks at…” followed by only three answers: “School,” “During extracurricular activities,” and “In the community.” Students were not able to provide an answer indicating they had not heard hate speech or derogatory remarks.

The phrasing and limited responses mean 100% of students who answer this mandatory prompt would confirm the school has a hate speech problem. It would be the perfect data point to use to claim there’s a “pervasive” hate speech problem on campus.

A spokesperson for the district says they recognize the prompt would lead to unfair claims.

“After the survey was released, it was determined that question 9 in the survey is not worded correctly. Staff members alerted the counseling staff to the issue and as a result, they did not share the collected data with students, nor will they be able to use it in their work,” the spokesperson said in an email to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

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What did the survey actually say?

The training went over the results of the survey. It showed there was not a “pervasive” hate speech problem on campus.

Despite being indoctrinated with left-wing views on bias, a very small number of students (251) say they “felt” targeted because of their sexual orientation (11%), religion/beliefs (10%), race or ethnicity (15%), or gender (16%). This does not indicate a pervasive hate speech problem at KiMS. Still, the school tried to present the survey as showing a significant problem.

“While this data only represents 10-16% of our student population, those students might experience forms of targeting every day at school. If a student is targeted every day throughout middle school, that is the equivalent to 1.4 years (ONLY counting school days),” one slide said.

There’s no evidence that students are experiencing the claims of bias every day. Given the broad explanation that students were told is a form of hate, there’s no real evidence this is happening to most of those students at all. And it’s unclear how many individual students are responsible for multiple claims of bias.

Still, the training told students that the problem was pervasive.

“Given the number of students reporting mistreatment, we are asking that all mistreatment be reported to a trusted adult in the school or to the office,” one slide said.

Parents complain and the principal makes spurious claims

The parents of a KiMS student emailed Principal Cassaro asking why their child had to attend the training. They were dubious of the claim that the school has a hate speech problem.

“Can you please provide an example of the type of occurrence(s) that prompted the use of an entire week (in lieu of the extra class time) on this subject? I’m not requesting a specific example but am curious to know in what grade level the incidents are allegedly occurring and what type of incident (‘unkind and disrespectful,’ ‘hate speech, derogatory, slurs’),” the mom emailed.

“My husband and I believe that these types of ‘lessons’ on social justice-type subjects are better suited to parental instruction,” she added.

Cassaro said the n-word was used, as well as a derogatory word about Chinese people, by students. But she initially could not provide any official data showing a pervasive problem, according to an email the parent shared with the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

“One of the challenges of collecting data is much of this is happening in the hallway and lunchroom,” Cassaro wrote, according to an email forwarded by the parents. “Students and some staff members are reporting hearing more inappropriate language, racial slurs, and derogatory comments than in the past, but have been unable to identify which students have said them. For students who we have been able to identify, we have followed the Students Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.”

Using the survey to push the point

Cassaro then used the survey results to bolster her claim of pervasive hate on campus, despite a lack of official data.

“Per the survey taken on Tuesday during Panther Time, nearly 300 students in our school throughout all three grade levels said they have heard inappropriate language and/or gestures, hate speech, slurs, and/or derogatory language. We are still trying to identify which students are engaging in this behavior and believe that many students hear their comments,” Cassaro wrote.

Her math does not add up.

There were 251 instances of a student claiming to have experienced some form of bias. The data does not state 251 — or 300 — individual students experienced bias. It says students reported instances of bias (meaning, one student could be responsible for three affirmative responses when asked about bias). If you add in the instances of students who said they had witnessed rude gestures (384), which the principal cites in her email, you get 634 instances of bias.

And the data collected came only after students were primed to change their views on what is an example of bias.

An excuse to push equity training on students

It’s hard to judge the honesty of a school and district that won’t provide data on instances of bias.

But it’s incredulous to believe there’s a pervasive problem when they’re not able to produce even rough numbers of instances before pushing students into a survey where they seem prompted to answer in the affirmative. And even after the survey was taken, it very clearly shows any perceived problem isn’t pervasive.

Anti-bias training, regardless of the reason, would not normally be seen as controversial. There’s nothing wrong with reminders on how insults can impact relationships and an environment. But in this case, the training deserves to be called out.

The very premise of the training is based on what appears to be a lie. The school is telling children they’re racist, redefining bias through a left-wing lens via the training, and guilting them into changing their worldview. That’s manipulative and immoral.

And that the training is driven by a political worldview is unconscionable, even if not shocking to see in public schools overrun by liberal activist educators.

The school owes its students an apology or a more public explanation of what the actual problem — if it exists — truly looks like.

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,  InstagramFacebook, and YouTube. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: School used unsubstantiated hate speech claim to push kids into equity training