On April 17, Suparna Dutta sent the following email to Ann Bonitatibus, principal of Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology (“TJ”). Dutta’s email included a plea to Lisa Williams, the school district’s “chief equity officer.”
On March 19th, as I sat in a hospital in India caring for my ailing mother, I got frantic texts from my child about offensive material being shown as part of 8th period mandatory social and emotional learning lessons. My child, who was very upset, sent me the slides and videos that the class was being subjected to. I was shocked to see videos of leaders of a very small but radical leftist 501(c)(4) group TJAAG, telling FCPS children that TJ is racist and indoctrinating them with far-left ideology at taxpayers’ dime. These were ideas right out of the Marxist “equal outcomes” Critical Race Theory ideology. These activists said “America is not the land of equality,” “have to be actively anti-racist; not simply not being racist, not doing bad things isn’t an option,” “take an active stance in calling out your classmates.” Adults should not be allowed to hold children as captive audience and subject them to psychological harm. That is what happened to my child. This is tantamount to child abuse at TJ under YOUR watch.
I shared these videos with other parents who are also upset about this. As the principal you are ultimately responsible for this radical propaganda. Who created this lesson? Do not try to hide behind our children by saying that this was created by them. Who approved this lesson? Why were parents not notified about this beforehand? Why were there no diverse viewpoints expressed? Since when does a school have the role of teaching morality to my child? That is my sacred job as a parent. You should stick to your job to provide a rigorous factual academic experience to my child. Let children be free thinkers by letting them express their opinions in a free and open dialogue without the fear of repercussions by activist educators, not by limiting ideas.
As most TJ parents now know from FOIA requests, you have been in bed with the radical activist TJAAG members for a long time, plotting to destroy the haven of meritocracy that TJ has offered children. TJ used to be the alternative to private schools, which most of us cannot afford. You wrote to mostly minority TJ parents last year questioning our privilege. You spoke of “lessons and activities that will need to be infused across our entire TJ program of study in all content areas.” You have demonized the hard working Asian American students by insinuating that they cheated their way into TJ by paying up to “$15,000,” which is an utter lie. While the rest of the world forges ahead in STEM education, and the US lags behind, your priority is to not bolster academic excellence but to teach kids to be radical activists. This is a dereliction of duty and you ought to be fired.
Most parents don’t expect much of Superintendent Brabrand after the debacle over TJHSST and FCPS distance learning. But it is disappointing to see that as the equity lead, you have joined this divisive fray at FCPS. My chosen home, America, has been the beacon of freedom and hope in the world. “Anti-racist” ideology pits people against each other, divides them into oppressors and oppressed warring factions based on immutable factors. Everything gained since the civil rights movement is being lost now, with this cancerous Marxist ideology being inculcated in the youth. It encourages hatred and discrimination. A core tenet of CRT claims “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”
I hope you don’t indulge in the bigotry of low expectations against some groups, like Ms. Bonitatibus does. She said in an email last year that there are “so few black and brown children” at TJ. She also said at a TJPTSA meeting that when she pokes her head into classrooms at TJ, she’s saddened that the demographics do not reflect the geographic area. Imagine how that makes the parents feel?! Treat children as humans, NOT identities or objects to be experimented with.
I’m worried about the misguided and regressive path FCPS is taking. What will you do to assuage the concerns of parents who are very concerned about the indoctrination of CRT, couched in euphemisms like “culturally responsive,” which inflicts real emotional harm in our innocent children?
Very disappointed in FCPS,
On April 19, Dutta received the following response from Bonitatibus.
Dear Ms. Dutta,
Thank you for reaching out to share your and your daughter’s experience relative to the content in the SEL lesson on March 19. I am sorry that your daughter felt offended and we will respect your request to excuse your child from remaining SEL lessons this year. Also, I am sorry to hear your mother was ailing and hope your time at her side was one of comfort.
I would like to take this opportunity to provide one point for clarity on an issue you raise. Please be aware that there is no partnership that TJ as a school or I as an individual share with TJAAG. TJ student leaders working on the project wanted current and former TJ voices. They reached out to alumni of their choosing, none of whom in the video were identified as members of TJAAG, nor did they speak to that organization.
I would also offer that you and I have never spoken personally about our shared beliefs and values, especially the sacred right you hold as a parent teaching morality to your child. If you would want to speak one-on-one about your concerns, I am always open to do so. We most likely would learn from each other and develop a stronger mutual respect and understanding.
Ann N. Bonitatibus, Ed.D.
To date, the embattled Bonitatibus has not resigned, nor has she been terminated from her role at TJ. While Bonitatibus’s email fails to apologize for the March 19 incident, she does offer to excuse Dutta’s child from “remaining SEL lessons this year.” Other parents, across Fairfax County, might want to request the same for their own children, if they don’t want them exposed to similar Critical Race Theory indoctrination sessions.
UPDATE, 4/26: In subsequent emails, Bonitatibus significantly walked back her offered dialogue with Dutta. “I will not take time to discuss ideological and political differences that you may have with FCPS, SEL, and equity initiatives, which in turn get enacted at TJHSST,” Bonitatibus wrote.
Parents might question why FCPS and TJ — taxpayer-funded, government-run institutions — have committed themselves to the advancement of just one set of “ideological and political” beliefs. Bonitatibus, however, made clear that she “will not take time to discuss” any differences parents might have with the school system’s leftist orthodoxy — so much for diversity or tolerance.
Finally, Bonitatibus seems to have vowed to persist with racially divisive indoctrination sessions at TJ, while suggesting that she ultimately has no discretion in the matter. “As an FCPS employee and leader who has been tasked with keeping equity of the center of our work, I will continue to perform as directed,” the embattled principal wrote.