A member of a school board in Texas has said the quiet part out loud, admitting that a beloved Black high school principal who shared his stance on racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death was pushed out of the job for being a “total activist.”
Dr. James Whitfield, who became Colleyville High School’s first Black principal in 2020, wrote a letter to the school community about police brutality after Floyd’s murder, which led to him being placed on administrative leave in July 2020.
“He is encouraging the disruption and destruction of our district,” former school board candidate Stetson Clark said during a board meeting at the time, the Texas Tribune reported.
In September 2021, the school district voted unanimously to not renew Whitfield’s contract, causing uproar among many parents, students, and teachers. His critics claimed the letter he wrote to the community about “education [being] the key to stomping out ignorance, hate, and systemic racism,” was equivalent to implementing Critical Race Theory in the school.
Tammy Nakamura may be new to the Grapevine-Colleyville school board but that didn’t stop her from weighing in on Whitfield’s controversial departure during a gathering of school board members last month hosted by the Republican National Committee.
On the event’s page, the RNC stated that the group was organizing the June 26 meeting ahead of upcoming local, state, and federal elections to discuss “issues parents have raised, and the success they have had in getting elected and making a difference, and how parents/students can get involved.”
Nakamura was listed as a “distinguished, elected trustee” who would speak at the meeting.
In a video of the event posted to the Colleyville Citizens for Accountability Facebook group on July 8, Nakamura is seen commenting on Whitfield’s departure. After alleging Whitfield brought national attention to the school district because he was married to a white woman, Nakamura said it was the principal’s supposedly woke agenda that led to his ouster.
“I went in last week and read the whole file,” she said during the meeting.
“That’s the straw that broke the camel’s back… that got him fired,” Nakamura said, referring to the letter Whitfield sent to parents about targeting racism and hate, which she claimed showed an activist agenda. “There is absolute proof [of] what he was trying to do,” she said.
Though Nakamura didn’t elaborate on the contents of Whitfield’s letter, she was adamant that she had a list of other educators in the school system with similar motives.
“They have to be stopped now,” she added. “We cannot have teachers such as these in our schools because they’re just poison, and they’re taking our schools down.”
However, members of the Colleyville community pushed back, saying the novice school board member was attempting to fear-monger with “incoherent” and “misguided” claims for the sake of politics.
“First, Tammy Harris Nakamura, your story is incoherent so it’s hard to follow your misguided claims,” posted Amyn Gilani in the Colleyville Citizens for Accountability Facebook group.
“Second, Dr. James Whitfield was targeted because he addressed the murder of George Floyd and he made himself available to support all students who have questions and thoughts about inequality and injustice,” Gilani wrote. “James is an asset to our community, not poison.”
“Sounds like a 15th century attempt to prosecute an old world inquisition,” Karl Meek posted, questioning the board member’s motives in targeting educators with different political views. “What’s next, rounding up the ‘poisonous teachers’, shackling them and then sentencing them to an indeterminate incarceration in the ‘Towers of Colleyville’? What’s old must be new again?”
Another Colleyville resident called Nakamura’s suggestion of a list of “poisoned” teachers “an employment hit list.”
Others questioned why Nakamura even had access to go through educators’ files and whether it was a breach of privacy.
“Well tami, that is not what was read in open meeting by the HR director,” wrote Grapevine-Colleyville school district substitute teacher David Benedetto. “[By the way] .. why are you revealing confidential personnel matters?”
According to the Star-Telegram, Whitfield is on paid administrative leave until his resignation officially goes into effect in August 2023.
Neither Nakamura nor the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District immediately returned requests for comment.