The radical activist group that the Biden administration said it erroneously included in guidance on post-coronavirus school reopenings was already spreading its messaging in schools and universities across the country.
And its cornerstone program, called Activists in Residence, pays professional agitators $30,000 per year, working 20 hours per week, to lead “abolitionist educational organizing in their respective cities” and further the group’s agenda, according to its website.
The Abolitionist Teaching Network launched on July 6, 2020 with the stated goal “to develop and support those in the struggle for educational freedom by utilizing the intellectual work and direct action of Abolitionists in many forms.”
The ATN did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment or answer emailed questions.
In its “Guide for Racial Justice & Abolitionist Social and Emotional Learning” handbook, the group calls “Whiteness” a form of oppression and accuses the U.S. educational system of the “spirit murder” of “Black, Brown and Indigenous children.”
The guide also claims that social and emotional learning standards, or SEL, “can be a covert form of policing used to punish, criminalize, and control Black, Brown, and Indigenous children and communities to adhere to White norms.”
“Most SEL standards are rooted in Eurocentric norms, not to empower, love, affirm, or free Black, Brown, or Indigenous children,” the handbook reads.
The Biden administration called it an “error” after including a link to that pamphlet in its reopening guidelines.
“The Department does not endorse the recommendations of this group, nor do they reflect our policy positions,” the Department of Education said in a statement Wednesday. “It was an error in a lengthy document to include this citation.”
Despite the administration distancing itself from the group, critics blasted President Biden for being too close to controversial movements, including ones supporting critical race theory, which like the ATN asserts that American institutions are inherently racist. Such programs were recently banned from being taught in schools in roughly half the country.
“President Biden has supported Critical Race Theory since he took office — no one believes this was an honest mistake,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told Fox News Wednesday.
The ATN, which advocates for a radical overhaul of the education system in order to achieve racial equality, naturally has substantial ties to the field of education.
The group’s demands include ending standardized testing, hiring more “Abolitionist” teachers, removing police officers from schools and offering “free, antiracist therapy for White educators and support staff.”
One of its co-founders and board members, Bettina Love, is an education professor at the University of Georgia, where the student-run Red & Black newspaper praised her for founding the ATN last summer in an article the school highlighted on its own website.
“We are advocating for a school system that works for all children, not just Black or Brown children,” she told the paper. “But what we are going to do first and foremost is start with those kids who have been marginalized and neglected for centuries.”
Before co-founding the ATN, she penned a 2019 op-ed for Education Week magazine titled “Dear White Teachers: You Can’t Love Your Black Students If You Don’t Know Them.”
“For Black and Brown children in the United States, a major part of their schooling experience is associated with White female teachers who have no understanding of their culture,” the Rochester, N.Y., native began. “That was certainly my experience.”
In January 2021, she was the keynote speaker at a Northwestern University webinar on education and social policy, in which she touted a book on her “abolitionist teaching” philosophy – “the idea of bringing the rebellious spirit and methods of abolitionists into the education world.”
On her personal website, Love shares praise from a handful of other colleges where she delivered speeches: the University of Pittsburgh, Rhodes College and California State University, Dominguez Hills.
She also speaks at events outside of education, including a 2018 summit called the “White Privilege Conference” in Michigan and, on June 23, a livestream sponsored by the publisher Haymarket Books and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.
“We want a playing field that says the things that you have, the privileges that you have, you no longer have those privileges because you didn’t earn them,” she said during the virtual event. “And since you didn’t earn them, you need to go ahead and give them up.”
In all, six of the group’s seven board members are actively working as educators.
Co-founder Brandelyn Tosolt is an associate professor of education at Northern Kentucky University. Chelsey Culley-Love, another co-founder, is a third-grade teacher in Atlanta. Martha Allexsaht-Snider is also a University of Georgia professor, in the Institute for Women’s Studies. Farima Pour-Khorshid is an education professor at the University of San Francisco who holds key roles in several other left-wing educational groups. And David Stovall is a professor of African-American studies and criminology, law and justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. According to Stovall’s university bio, he “investigates” three areas: “Critical Race Theory, the relationship between housing and education, [and] the intersection of race, place and school.”
Sarah Abdelaziz, director of the ATN’s Activists in Residence program, is described on the group’s website as “a former educator.” Nearly all of the Activists in Residence under her are identified as educators or teachers.