On September 6, 2023, the Greater Education Council of Connecticut (GECC) issued a cease and desist letter to all members of the Guilford Board of Education, detailing a number of reasons why GECC believes the Guilford Public School System (GPS) needs to stop the district's Equity and Social Justice Initiative (ESJI).
The group argued that Guilford had "doubled down" on efforts to expand its commitment to ESJI, which the group described as "Marxist-inspired, anti-American, and divisive". The district is committed to teaching about topics like systemic racism, and is considered an "equity-focused" school district according to Superintendent Dr. Paul Freeman.
"We submit that, under Superintendent Freeman’s direction, and with your full support, our Guilford Public School System has been transformed unnecessarily and intentionally into an “anti-racist” ideological indoctrination camp for “Equity and Social Justice.” Our Guilford High School students need to be proficient in reading, writing, arithmetic, science, technology, civics, economics, history and also need to have an appreciation, respect and love for American values and our founding documents when they graduate. Regrettably, your “Portrait of a Graduate” vision for our Guilford High School graduates requires them to be proficient only in vague, unmeasurable woke competencies such as being Global Citizens, Responsible Collaborators, and Critical Thinkers. We further reject your unlawful race conscious approach to education and insist that all children in the Guilford Public School System be respected, provided an equal opportunity to succeed, and ensured that they will compete in a colorblind educational environment."
In 2022, the GPS Board of Education reviewed the results of an "equity audit" for Social Studies and English Language Arts for grades 5-12. Dr. Freeman promised that the equity efforts would be extended to younger grades, saying, “yes, there is intention and there is commitment." In 2020, Freeman quoted Dr. Ibram X. Kendi in the district's “Our Direction” newsletter: “Ibram Kendi tells us that striving not to be racist is not good enough. To make our community better and more just, we must take actions that are actively anti-racist … We are committed to being more intentionally anti-racist.”
The group is very concerned that GPS is indoctrinating students into becoming antiracist activists.
In the letter sent to the Board of Education, GECC details a wide range of alleged policy violations, malfeasance and risks to the community stemming from the district's ESJI work. The group also believes the school is in violation of Connecticut statute for allegedly not obtaining approval through the “District Curriculum Committee” for ESJI content, and more.
Greater Education Council of Connecticut Chairman Cort Wrotnowski signed the letter, requesting a response from the school board within a week.
Superintendent Freeman issued a scathing response to the letter on September 15th, calling it factually inaccurate, and wanted to address what he called the "grossest inaccuracies" in the letter.
Freeman says the letter confuses the requirements for a “school security and safety plan,” in accordance with Section 10-222m of the General Statutes, with the safe school climate plan, which he says the BOE has separately adopted in accordance with a different statute, Section 10-222d.
He also refuted claims that the district lacked a curriculum committee, as required by law. He further clarified that the BOE created the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment (CIA) Committee, a standing committee of the Board that oversees curricula at the highest level.
"Most importantly, please know that we reject the false dichotomy that those who oppose our commitment to equity, inclusion and belonging repeatedly attempt to create. Issues of equity and belonging are fundamental elements of our approach to education. Addressing those concerns with and for our students in no way diminishes the academic rigor with which our teachers prepare our students for the future or our commitment to provide safe and healthy schools. In fact, the opposite is true," says Freeman.
You can download the full GECC letter here:
If you are interested in learning more about GECC and meeting members, you can find them at the Guilford Fair from September 15th-17th by the "Bargain Books" booth. Learn more here.