The nonprofit group Fair Education organized a “Breaking the Social Justice Stranglehold on Public Education” forum on Tuesday at the Reagan Ranch Center. About 100 people, largely white and older than 50, were in attendance. While the overarching theme across several presentations was social justice, the group focused heavily on Just Communities, a Santa Barbara nonprofit under contract with the Santa Barbara Unified School District to provide implicit-bias training to district faculty and staff. Fair Education formed late last year to sue Just Communities and Santa Barbara Unified in federal court, alleging their material was anti-white, anti-male, and anti-Christian. The suit was dismissed in early March for lack of legal standing.
On April 8, Fair Education filed a new complaint in Santa Barbara Superior Court, this time naming Fair Education cochairs James Fenkner and Sheridan Rosenberg as plaintiffs — both have children in the district. The two were commended several times throughout the presentations for deciding to be named in the suit. In the complaint, they allege discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, and gender, among other things.
“These laws were designed to protect minorities. Now they have to be used to protect white Americans because that’s what we’re living in,” said Fair Education attorney Eric Early. He encouraged attendees to continue fighting against “alt-left social justice warriors,” whom he characterized as victimizing teachers, students, and parents who wanted to speak up. “They know how to shut people like us up,” he said. Early was adamant that racism is used against white people, which audience members responded to with enthusiasm.
Matthew Vadum, regular contributor to the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s FrontPage Magazine and Epoch Times, also presented to the group. Vadum has written numerous times about Just Communities and previously worked for Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C., which conducts opposition research on left-wing nonprofit and activist movements. Vadum suggested the district use the money it pays to Just Communities to “wipe feces off the floor” at Santa Barbara High School, which he described as “dilapidated.” Vadum mocked the term “Latinx” and listed other programs in the district such as AHA! and Ethnic Studies Now that were of concern. He described the programs as “wacky” and “there to corrupt the minds of the young.” Vadum’s presentation included a slideshow of pictures of “angry and not very well-informed” young people and students involved with organizations he listed. He alluded to similarities between a Santa Barbara City College Xicanx poster and the Third Reich.
Presenters also spoke about and explored the term “social justice.” They equated social justice to socialism and deemed the topic inappropriate to teach in schools. “Just Communities is a purveyor of social justice,” said Fenkner. He described the Just Communities teachings as “extremely disturbing and extremely divisive.” He labeled the activities at schools as a “social justice orgy.”
Vicki Alger, a research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland and former adviser for the U.S. Department of Education, flew in from Arizona to present data on Dos Pueblos High School’s achievement gap through the years. Her slides showed fluctuations across time where the achievement gap increased and decreased. While there’s been a slight closing of the achievement gap, the fluctuations suggest improvement is not because of Just Communities involvement, she said. Alger criticized Just Communities’ claim that it could close the achievement gap through a race-based approach. The town hall ended with a Q&A session. At least two parents shared instances in which their children were allegedly harassed for being white, male, or Christian.