Abolitionist Teaching Network aims to defund police in schools

Professors have united to combat the “injustice” in educational systems by creating the "Abolitionist Teaching Network."

The professors advocate for reparations, the removal of police from schools, and other progressive causes.

A number of professors and educators throughout the country have united to create the Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN), a highly progressive racial advocacy and activist organization centered around reforming the “injustice” in the nation’s educational system and standards. 

The group contends that the current system does not “empower, love, affirm, or free Black, Brown, or Indigenous children,” and has compiled a “Guide for Racial Justice & Abolitionist Social and Emotional Learning” as a resource for those who wish to practice “abolitionist” teaching. The guide contains such recommendations as removing “all punitive or disciplinary practices that spirit murder Black, Brown, and Indigenous children” and providing “Reparations for Children of Color stolen by the school-to-prison pipeline.”

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ATN’s guide additionally endorses the notion that current social and emotional learning in schools, “can be a covert form of policing used to punish, criminalize, and control Black, Brown, and Indigenous children and communities to adhere to White norms” and that these “frameworks are weaponized against Black, Brown, and Indigenous children and communities.” The guide does not, however, offer any examples to substantiate these claims.

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ATN conversely offers its disapproval for law enforcement, specifically law enforcement within the school environment. In the guide, ATN suggests “Remove[ing] any and all police and policing from schools,” though it offers no alternative measures to assure safety and security in the education system. ATN similarly advocates for educators to “Address how policing practices show up in our own work, even when police are not present in our schools” and for the tearing down of “schools that were built like prisons.” 

The organization goes so far as to advocate the dismantling of the U.S. prison system and ending incarceration, posting links to videos such as “Beyond Reform: Abolishing Prisons” and articles including “No One is Disposable: Resources and Context for a Conversation on Prison Abolition.”

The guide also encourages individuals to learn from those who “disrupt Whiteness and other forms of oppression.”

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When speaking to Campus Reform about ATN’s Guide, Chance Layton, a spokesman for the National Association of Scholars, stated that ATN doesn’t advocate for real change.

“ATN makes a good point: ‘We must embody the spirit of Black Lives Mattering, not just say Black Lives Matter. Too much of the rhetoric is based on Twitter endorphins and not actual change. Unfortunately, ATN doesn’t provide that change. Instead, the organization is focused on critical social and emotional learning. The last thing our children need is a public school system that teaches critical theory in any way. Critical thinking? Yes. Critical theory? Emphatically, no.”

Layton continued, “A 6th grader doesn’t need to be taught that 2+2=4 because the patriarchy or ‘Whiteness’ told them it does. Our children don’t deserve the kind of hate these so-called ‘professionals’ want to endow them with. Giving our students the tools to become virtuous, thriving, participants in American society should be the purpose of public education. Giving our children the tools to flourish should be our goal. Not ‘Reparations for Children of Color.’ This is child abuse.”

In addition to promoting racial justice, the ATN guide briefly addresses climate change, advocating for “Invest[ment] in state-of-the-art green school facilities that are worthy of Black, Brown, and Indigenous children.”

ATN asserts that the “heart” of the operation is its “Activists in Residence.” These are “community organizers” that “strengthen teachers’ knowledge of collective liberation strategies, so teachers can dismantle structures that do not love, support, and help all students thrive, especially Black and Brown students.” ATN states that “Activists in Residence organize through a Black queer feminist lens.”

ATN will also “award grants to educators who strive to disrupt inequalities and injustice within their schools, communities, or both.” Additionally, ATN will “award grants to formerly incarcerated folx.”

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When speaking to Campus Reform about the Abolitionist Teaching Network, Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of Turning Point USA, stated that organizations like ATN are “a direct assault on truth.”

”The infiltration of these postmodern ideas in our schools is a direct assault on truth. They seek to demonize and vilify the American way of life and our heroic history, one of forging a more perfect union through nearly 250 years of bravery, innovation and sacrifice.” Kirk continued, “They teach whole groups of Americans that they are victims and that the problems in their life are someone else’s responsibility to fix. This is a lie and will only make students depressed, miserable, and unproductive. This is nothing but Neo-Marxism under a new name and if you see them coming for your child’s school, fight back. Their agenda is not only idiotic, it’s dangerous.”

ATN’s board consists of Bettina L. Love, a Professor of Education at the University of Georgia; Brandelyn Tosolt, an Associate Professor at Northern Kentucky University; Chelsey Culley-Love, a third grade teacher in Atlanta; David Stovall, a Professor of African-American Studies and Criminology, Law & Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Cynthia B. Dillard, a Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Georgia;Farima Pour-Khorshid, a  Professor of Teacher Education at the University of San Francisco; and Martha Allexsaht-Snider, an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Georgia.

ATN, as well as members of ATN’s board, declined to comment.

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