An education watchdog organization surveyed more than 70 public school districts across the U.S. and found discrimination in hiring guidance, interview questions, teacher job postings and evaluation criteria.
The National Opportunity Project (NOP) sent public information requests to 74 school districts, 69 of which showed discrimination in their hiring practices based on so-called Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, according to its report reviewed by Fox News Digital.
"What we learned is that in numerous schools across the country, they are looking to hire teachers to teach children as young as kindergarten age, not based on their qualifications necessarily, or on their educational experience as teachers, but oftentimes because of where they stand politically," NOP's President Patrick Hughes told Fox News Digital. "The way that this is characterized throughout the process of looking to hire these folks is through diversity, equity and inclusion, which sound fair and things that people can get behind, but in reality are just a pretext to sort of backdoor in a particular political point of view or a particular social-ideological point of view."
The NOP serves as a government watchdog at the federal and state level to make sure that government isn't using its power to infringe upon the rights of American citizens, specifically constitutional rights or rights guaranteed to them by federal or state law, Hughes said. NOP commissioned the report on teacher hiring in K-12 schools across the U.S. because post-COVID, parents have taken an even more particular interest in their children's learning.
"They [parents] saw for the first time … what their kids were being spoon-fed in the classroom and unfortunately, what was being taught to them went well beyond what we typically would think in K-12 classrooms: English, math, science, history," he said. "Parents began to see that instead of education, in many cases, teachers and school boards were focusing on indoctrination and indoctrination from one political perspective, the political perspective of the left."
In a few examples highlighted in NOP's report, schools screened job applicants based on requirements that they "demonstrate a commitment to social justice, equity, excellence and high expectations for all students," as seen in Evanston Township High School District 202 in Illinois, or asked "What about your background makes you more/less likely to fit into this community?" as discovered in Atlanta Public Schools in Georgia. The full report outlines numerous other examples.
Hughes said the NOP report focused on five specific areas in the teaching and hiring process: ideological qualifications in teacher job postings, application and interview questions that screen for political and social ideology, using evaluation criteria to find an ideological fit, setting racial and ethnic diversity hiring goals and identity quotas for hiring committees and interview panels.
"We learned that in many cases, race, gender [and] ethnic identification were qualifications that were put front and center and in certain cases hiring committees and selection panels for candidates were using quotas," he said. "In other words, to sit on that committee, you had to be from a particular background based on either your race, your sexual orientation or your gender identity."
"Instead of focusing on the teaching of the core curricula that kids are going to need to understand in order to become successful in the 21st century and beyond, there is a larger focus on making sure that these kids see a specific viewpoint and a specific left-leaning political ideology," he added.
In another example, interview teams at City Schools of Decatur in Georgia could ask applicants to respond to a prompt about "An upset parent" who "emails you regarding a classroom discussion with your students about critical race theory. They accuse you (the teacher) of anti-Americanism, changing ‘real history,’ and of making White children feel marginalized and attacked. Please discuss your course of action and draft a response to this parent," according to the NOP report.
In another example from the report, Spokane Public Schools in Washington state asked potential teachers: "What does a socially just classroom look like?" At Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, candidate responses are rated more highly on a scoring rubric if they show strong agreement with DEI concepts such as "equity journey," "equity work," and "understand[ing] that race is [a] social construct."
In Missouri, the School District of Clayton strives to "use a racial equity framework to design and implement processes for recruiting, hiring and retaining a diverse workforce capable of ensuring and sustaining academic progress for a racially, ethnically and socially diverse student body."
"Social justice, equity, race as a social construct, as opposed to a person's personal identification, these are political terms," Hughes said. "These are terms that are loaded and from the left disguised as a means by which to make sure that the applicant adheres to these philosophies and adheres to the notion that this is what kids should be taught."
Hughes said many of these terms cloaked in equity are similar to when people say critical race theory is history, someone who has gender reassignment surgery is having "gender conforming care" or how abortion is referred to as "reproductive justice" or "reproductive health."
"When they use these terms like diversity or equity or inclusion, like I said previously, they sound nice because equity sounds like equality and everyone talks about how diversity is our strength, but in reality, the left has just taken these terms and used them as a pretext and a cudgel in order to get their social, ideological and political philosophies into the K-12 systems," he said.
"Obviously, we want the best teachers and we don't care if they are Black, White, green, brown, blue, whatever," he added.
Another example highlighted in the report found that in the Denver Public Schools system, a qualification listed for an art teacher was the willingness "to dismantle systems of oppression and inequity in the community."
Hughes said the NOP report validates the concerns many parents have that the most qualified teachers aren't the ones being hired into the school systems and how critically important it is that they are because of the learning loss that took place during the COVID-19 lockdowns. He argued that oftentimes the culprits are "radical" school boards and the teachers unions, including the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation for Teachers (AFT), that are "dedicated to leftist Democrat politics, first, over teaching our kids in K-12."
"To me that is an egregious example of what's going on… in schools all across the country," he added. "Because we know from the criteria that we found in the 69 districts that responded to us, and we obviously can't cover all of them, it was endemic in many of these districts that that type of thing would be going on."
Given the Supreme Court's recent ruling on affirmative action in higher education, Hughes said it will be interesting to see where the court is willing to go in instances where there is prospective discrimination against applicants or teachers who aren't being promoted or given the benefits that they otherwise would have earned because they're not adhering to specific political or social ideologies, or when someone isn't being hired specifically because of their race or gender.
NOP said it could partner with a litigation firm like the Center for American Rights to bring an action against a school district, state or whoever is in charge of the specific potential discrimination or violation prospectively of First Amendment rights should it be necessary, based on the information revealed in the report.
"One of our goals is to take this research and figure out in what ways people's rights are being violated, either state employment law rights, constitutional freedom of expression or Title VII under the Civil Rights Act," he said. "I believe that there are going to be actionable consequences depending on what the facts of the circumstances are, where it took place, what that particular district's policies were, how they treated a particular prospective educator or an educator in their system."
"This has ramifications across the entire country, and it's something that I think that parents want to pay particular attention to," he added.
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