According to a statement released by Williamson County Schools, multiple unauthorized visitors handed out “propaganda-type fliers about the district’s elementary curriculum” at 11 or more elementary school campuses and one middle school campus on Thursday, Dec. 16.
The district said the “trespassers” violated WCS’s visitor policy that requires individuals coming onto a school campus to check in at the school office first. The pamphlets named Parent’s Choice Tennessee and the Moms for Liberty Williamson County Chapter as advocates of enclosed content disparaging the district’s elementary English language arts curriculum.
The pamphlets were given to parents waiting for their children in school car rider lines. WCS claims that some of the unapproved visitors were stopped by school administrators and student resource officers (SRO).
“This kind of behavior is simply wrong,” wrote Carol Birdsong, the WCS communications director, in the district’s statement. “We do not allow this type of activity from anyone, and finding someone on campus like that can, and did, cause fear, especially given that we serve small children.”
“We did not organize this effort,” Robin Steenman, chair of Moms for Liberty's Williamson County chapter, wrote in a statement for the group. “However, Moms for Liberty has spent well over 1,200 hours researching the Wit & Wisdom curriculum. We’ve made our findings available to any parent online. The more parents know about the dark thematics and age-inappropriate material, the more other parents and groups have become activated. Some parents chose to hand out flyers to other parents to get the word out because they feel as passionate as we do about this curriculum which has failed state standards twice.”
Wit & Wisdom was created by Washington, D.C.-based Great Minds, a nonprofit publisher of curriculum.
The Great Minds website states that students receiving the Wit & Wisdom curriculum “are invited to read content-rich and complex texts that build their knowledge of important topics as they master literacy skills. Core texts are wide ranging, varied, and provide a careful balance of literary, informational, and fine art texts.”
The pamphlets distributed Dec. 16 at WCS schools targeted six books within the curriculum in particular.
One of the books, “Separate Is Never Equal,” by Duncan Tonatiuh, is listed in the pamphlets as “example content being forced on our children.” The book is about the California desegregation lawsuit and contains historical examples of racism during a time when Black, Indigenous and other students of color were denied access to “whites only” schools.
The pamphlets claim Tonatiuh's book “characterizes white children and adults as mean. And Mexican children as victims of oppression. Hyper-focused on racial differences.”
Moms for Liberty refutes the notion that parents who passed out the flyers caused any emotional harm to students or families.
“We reject the idea that handing out these flyers endangered anyone," Steenman wrote. "Especially when we have actual [second] graders who have been emotionally traumatized by the racialized Wit & Wisdom curriculum.”
According to Birdsong’s statement, WCS is “working on a more comprehensive way to address this type of incident, including identifying those individuals [who distributed the pamphlets] and ensuring that they do not come to our campuses again.”
Birdsong urged the district's families and parents to keep reporting incidents they feel are uncomfortable or out of the ordinary.
"As we tell our students, when you see something that doesn’t look right, say something," she wrote. "We appreciate the quick action of the parents in our car rider lines who notified the administration and their school’s SROs."