Randall said American birthright is modeled after state standards in Massachusetts and Florida. The group received input from Dozens of far-right groups and activists including the Claremont Institute, the Family Research Council and Moms for Liberty. Randall sees it as a bipartisan alternative to academic achievement, which he has described as hijacked by liberal concepts. However, critics say it is right-wing biased – for example, it includes the impeachment of Bill Clinton but not Donald Trump.
The Colorado State Board of Education rejected the American birthright in October. Published by the National Council for the Social Studies, a professional professional group for educators a rare warning against using it.
“They’re trying to force a certain agenda on these kids,” said Amy Schommer, a mother in Woodland Park, of the school board’s adoption of the American birthright. “I’m a conservative, but I’m not against my kids learning something they don’t agree with. They’re trying to solve problems that don’t exist here.”
The district’s acceptance of the American Birthright had immediate consequences for an elective class called Civil Disobedience. Graf, the English teacher, started the class in 2015 to trace protest movements like Black Lives Matter back to the founding of America.
Five days after the board approved American birthright, a member of the community who has no children complained to Witt about “civil disobedience” and accused Graf of using “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates — over raising black people in America — as an “indoctrination tool,” according to emails obtained through open record requests.
A week later count read in The Pikes Peak Courier that Witt had decided that Coates’ book would no longer be used because it was not in accordance with American birthright. Graf said no one from administration spoke to him about how he teaches the class.
Graf resigned last month. “They take away teachers’ autonomy and limit the scope of free-thinking, controversial discussion, which I think is age-appropriate,” he said, “especially for 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds, who are short.” before going out and experiencing what it’s like to be an adult.”
Several other high school teachers resigned that year, citing the board as the reason, according to interviews and copies of resignation letters reviewed by NBC News. However, some in the community saw this as a good thing.
“I feel like they’re leaving because they have an agenda,” said Deborah Bruner, a Woodland Park grandmother. “It sounds to me like this body is holding teachers accountable for what they teach and teaching the truth.”
A controversial meeting
Emotions ran high when Witt arrived at Gateway Elementary School on March 2 to meet with staff.
Teachers had heard that Witt questioned the need for psychological support for students, and they were concerned.
During the meeting, Witt did not want to commit to retaining the same number of guidance counselors and social workers for the next school year. He said his focus is on “academic success.” Footage from NBC News.
Staff tried to explain why it was important to address students’ emotional issues in order for them to learn. An employee recently mentioned family problems murders in the community as an example of the type of trauma children face, including a murder suicide in which a student died.