Education advocates face increasingly ugly attacks

I hesitated to make this public, for reasons which I think will be obvious. But as attacks on vocal educators veer into uglier territory, I think it’s important for that ugliness to be exposed and called out when it crosses lines.

This week I went to the school building to package up some books to mail to my students. This letter from someone I don’t know in Texas was waiting in my mailbox:

It’s not the first time I’ve faced harassment for speaking up about education issues (although it’s the first I recall anyone crossing the Mom Line).

During this pandemic I’ve been accused of being personally responsible for the eighteenth largest school district in the country being closed for in-person instruction–not COVID, me–and have had people publicly call for my stalking.

After I pointed to a connection between white privilege and advocacy strategy by those pushing for a return to in-person learning, my comments were spotlighted by a local board of education member, leading to a torrent of harassment via social media and email. From there those comments gained the attention of a right wing North Carolina blogger and later a fringe national publication, both of whom misrepresented what I had said and stirred up a giant nest of extremely ugly hornets. Presumably that’s how this creepy guy in Grand Prairie, TX, even knows I exist.

From frequent contact with colleagues around the state who are active in advocacy efforts, I know I am not the only one who is facing personal attacks at a time when speaking up about safety and social justice has never been more important.

Let me say this as clearly as I can:

The goal of this harassment is to intimidate educators into silence.

In the case of issues of social justice and white privilege–topics that seem to provoke the most abhorrent reaction–the aim is to preserve a harmful status quo. Attacks around COVID safety issues are intended to force school employees to accept unsafe working conditions in silence.

We can’t allow those strategies to succeed. There is too much at stake.

We have to recognize this behavior for what it is, call it out when needed, and continue with the work of shining lights where they need to be shined.

12 thoughts on “Education advocates face increasingly ugly attacks

  1. We cannot be bullied into silence. I stand very much with you, and I will never back down. The truth is our defense, and our students and colleagues deserve our standing up to people that disrespect public education/educators.

  2. Unbelievable, I’m so sorry they are targeting you. I appreciate your voice, and courage to stand up for what is right. People will do anything to silence you, but I know, you’re not just in a fight! It’s a WAR, and I’m on your side!


  3. Justin, Thank you for sharing. I didn’t give up my Federal nor State Rights when I became a teacher. Where would I be, today, if Rosa Parks gave up her seat, those young A&T NC students didn’t stand up against inequalities by not sitting at that lunch counter in Greensboro, or we never heard Dr King’s Dream? Never stop speaking out; we teachers must say the truth about trying to force us into working in not just bad, but also dangerous conditions during a global pandemic. Lincoln said “a house divided cannot stand.”

  4. This is absolutely abhorrent behavior! I am so sorry that there are people trying to bully you into silence as someone else stated. Know that you are appreciated and respected by most. I stand with you in this process and your efforts for a safe return for ALL.

  5. Justin, I am sorry that you have to deal with ugliness, but on a larger scale , your supportive voice for public educators and public education is TRULY appreciated! Thank you for you’re continued efforts to improve the quality of public education!

  6. Justin, I’m so sorry you are enduring this. I love that you put it out there. Free speech should not be punished or censured for ANYONE. I doubt that Mr. Freeman is the real name of the sender…there could be a “movement” pushing this. Your position advocating for teachers is non-partisan, but keep in mind both sides there are also in a huge battle of silencing each other. My opinion….it’s wrong either way. Threats are NOT ok. But people do say ugly things. Again, I’m sorry this happened to you, knowing your intentions are noble and pure where defending our profession and the safety of our children and their families.

  7. I’m grateful for your leadership, example and inspiration to countless of us in the CMS district and beyond. Thank you, Justin.

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