A Virginia suburb 45 minutes west of the nation's capital has captured national attention because parents and teachers are resisting a school board that has pushed woke ideas such as critical race theory and gender ideology in the classroom.
Shawntel Cooper is one of those Loudoun County parents who decided to take action. In May, a video of Cooper's lambasting of the Loudoun County School Board over critical race theory went viral.
“I don't understand how you would not want to ban anything that is this divisive and divides [us from] each other because of color,” Cooper says, adding: “You can't understand evil.”
Cooper, who is black, joins tells “The Daily Signal Podcast” to talk about her experiences as a Loudoun mom and to offer advice on how other parents across the country can push back against woke school boards.
We also cover these news stories:
- A new Texas law bans abortions after an unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected, generally around six weeks.
- Americans remain stranded in Afghanistan, including at least 27 students and a family from California.
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy slams House Democrats for calling on telecommunications companies to preserve records that may be relevant to their probe of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Doug Blair: Our guest today is Shawntel Cooper, a mom from Loudoun County, Virginia, who came to national attention when a video of her confronting the local school board over critical race theory in the classroom went viral. Shawntel, thank you so much for joining us.
Shawntel Cooper: Thank you for having me.
Blair: I would love to start with the video. In it, you deliver a very passionate rebuttal of critical race theory to the Loudoun County School Board. And you were talking about how critical race theory is racist and bigoted. Could you give our listeners a rundown of what's happening in Loudoun County right now and how it led you to speak out at this meeting?
Cooper: What's going on in Loudoun County right now, the school board, when I went and spoke at the school board, the school was stating that they were not teaching critical race theory, but we were able to … get, I would say, curriculums, information teachers would provide us showing that they're teaching critical race theory.
I have one of the trainings the teachers were being trained on, which I stated at my last panel, where the teacher is to be represented as parent. And right now we caught them like at the tip of the iceberg, now they changed the wording to “critical,” actually, “Culturally Responsive Framework.”
When you look at the two, critical race theory and then Culturally Responsive Framework, they didn't change anything in the curriculum. They just changed the title, so you can see that it's the same thing. We're still fighting for critical race theory to be banned. But as of right now, there has not been any change. And the teachers are still being trained on Culturally Responsive Framework and anti-bias.
Blair: You've mentioned some stuff that is in the curriculum that you've found is objectionable. One of the things that I actually heard you talked about on one of your panels was this statement that the teacher is the parent. Can you explain to our listeners exactly what that was that this handout contained?
Cooper: Yes. I know in one of the curriculums, it explains white children have nothing to worry about. They don't go home thinking about how they can help others. And black children, their daily life is to consider other people's feelings instead of their own.
That really bothers me, because when you're young, you're not thinking about those kinds of things. You want to do your homework and go hang out with your friends. You want to do your report so you can go out and hang out with your friends. But these quotes, these direct quotes from the training material, it's very divisive.
And that one quote really bothers me because as a mother, I take my job very serious. To read, “Teachers have a special role to teach academics and inculcate morals. The teacher is the second mother. Parent's role is to socialize children and respect the teacher's authority”—now that made me want to speak up at the school board, because I will tell you one thing, I was for some of this critical race theory, not the title, but to have an open dialogue is what the school first said, I was for that because … it's not a big deal to look through someone else's eyes.
But when you are being divisive and telling a child who they are because of their path from some past mistakes of how we evolved, and to blame them because of the color of their skin, that's when it drew the line with me because I have biracial children.
Now, my son, he wasn't raised in a black and white environment. He was raised in a black environment, because his father didn't get involved with him until he was 5. So either way, color has nothing to do with how you raise your child. You teach them how to be victors. You teach them how to be strong, and to take things lightly when it comes to this social justice—I guess you would call it, I call it Marxist ideology—to not take it very lightly, to make sure you read everything. And it's OK to have an opinion.
And right now, my kids haven't had the experience of being told they are oppressed or have been trained because Loudoun County is in the spotlight. So they did draw back, but now they're pushing it back onto the teachers.
Blair: One of the things that you mentioned that I thought was so fascinating is, you mentioned yourself that you have biracial children and that while they haven't specifically been told that they are oppressed, because Loudoun County is in the spotlight, that must give a different view to you seeing as … you're one of the targets of this philosophy, right? They'll say, “Oh, we have to talk about race because people who are black, or people who are Latino, or other things like that, they need to have their experiences shared.” Do you believe that your experience as a black woman in America affects your view on critical race theory?
Cooper: I feel that I have a strong role to stand up against it because I am black. In my family, my family supports me on this decision. However, we all have different opinions, but we are against fighting racism with more racism.
As a black woman, you can guess some of the things that some people call me, but the good overlaps the name-calling. And when someone can just go back on the name-calling, instead of looking at the good, that little name-call doesn't really bother me at all.
Blair: Good. I'm glad to hear that you've found that your experience has been relatively positive. I'd like to talk a little bit more about Loudoun County in particular. You are a mother of school-aged kids in Loudoun County, where a lot of this stuff is taking place. What are some of the efforts that you and the other parents have been making to push back against critical race theory in the Loudoun County school system?
Cooper: Well, we have a lot of protests, as far as getting together with like-minded people that understand that we have to do this together. We get involved in every school board meeting.
We actually have quite a few organizations where we get together weekly and figure out, “OK, what's our next step? What are the points that we want to make so they understand that we're not against looking through someone else's lens or having an open discussion, but all we want as parents is to sit down cordially and go over the curriculum and the instructional material, so we can come together with a solution together, not where the school board is dividing every case?”
It feels like the school [board] is dividing us by using the transgender, by using the LGBT, or the mentally ill. All we want to do is work with them.
With us having weekly organizations meetings, being trained on critical race theory, we have a lot of panels and educational meetings. That's what we are doing in Loudoun County. We also have a lot of outreach from out of state. It's been really busy for a lot of us that are talking in regards to the critical race theory.
Also encouraging people to read—lots of reading, lots of reading. I found a couple of books, and one of them was Carol Swain, Dr. Swain, “Black Eye for America.” That is something easy that can help, I guess, a beginner to understand. And there's another book, “American Marxism,” I started that as well.
But really, the key is to get involved in your community. … Right now, it's not about Democrat, it's not about Republican, it's not about conservative. It is about how you want your child raised, your morals. How do we intertwine this together? And how do we solve this? That's how we're doing it in Loudoun County.
I can say it's been good to finally know that we're not alone, because during the 2020 COVID, the lockdown, a lot of us thought we were the only ones that thought this was horrible and, “Is something wrong with me?” But once everything opened up, we realized, “Oh my gosh, you think the same way? I do too.” And then it was like everyone was involved: “Yes, I'll sign the petition. What do you need me to do? I'll go door-knocking.” Now it's, “OK, we've got to get the word out to America.”
Blair: Definitely. I think that's great. Why do you think that Loudoun County, particularly, has so many of these radical leftists running around? You mentioned that there are other people out there who are kind of looking at it and noticing and saying, “Hey, in my school district, there's also this critical race theory or transgenderism thing.” But Loudoun County in particular seems to be a bit of a hotbed for these things.
There's the new transgender policy that forces teachers to use preferred pronouns and allows students to go into whichever bathroom they choose. There was that anti-critical race theory secret Facebook group that was spreading positive critical race theory messaging around. Why is it Loudoun County that seems to have all of these problems?
Cooper: Well, Loudoun County is a Democratic area. And in Democratic areas there seems to, I feel, that there seems to always be some sort of divisive division kind of agenda to have people turn against one another. This is what I've noticed. And then you get the new people that start to relocate because they don't like how a certain area's going. And I can say, that's how we are feeling too down here. We're fighting tooth and nail of it, but we don't know what's the outcome going to be by the end of this year. All we can do is keep on trying.
But more than likely, the only reason why this is happening is because the school board, they're paid and bought. The organization that trained the critical race theory, they are from California. And this organization from California has taken fundings from [George] Soros. So we have to think, “Where is this divisive training coming from and where did it start?” So then you think, “OK, well, California.” We know how California is going and nobody wants to be in California. Right now they're fighting just like us.
Now, this training has come from California to here. And all we can do is get together and fight, and not fight physically, but education-wise we have to fight and get involved with our voting for our governor and lieutenant governor, and making sure that their morals fall within our parenting morals and rules, and what we want together as a community, not just what's in our home, but together.
Blair: Absolutely. What do you view then as the consequences of continued critical race theory indoctrination in schools? If this continues to kind of go unchecked, what happens if we don't push back?
Cooper: If we don't push back, our country, not just Virginia, is going to head toward a communist culture. Right now, I feel that my freedom to be a good role model and a mother is being trampled on, because the school wants to raise my child.
… I remember Xi Van Fleet had mentioned that what the government gives you, it can also take back. If we know that this is the same plan that was trained in China, in a communist country, and it is hitting America hard, then we have to fight back.
If we don't fight against critical race theory and these policies that are encouraging more violent things with lesser charges, then we won't see a good change here in Virginia. We're going to see more crime. We're going to see people turning against each other just because of the color of your skin.
Right now, critical race theory is dividing. It will divide us. It will not bring us together. I can't stand for that. And I don't think any other American wants to stand for that, because then everything that we fought for and the soldiers that died for us, that absolutely would mean nothing.
Blair: Absolutely. Given that we can all acknowledge that critical race theory is something we want to get rid of in our schools, we want to get out of our education system, do you feel that the efforts of parents and other organizations in Loudoun County fighting back against critical race theory have been successful? Are there any particular success stories you can point to?
Cooper: Oh, yes. There is an organization, I think it's No Child Left Behind, they have won a couple of cases with banning [critical race theory], Russell County, Virginia, and there's another county, I think Augusta. And I'm so proud of them. And I just hope that we can get there someday too.
I don't understand how you would not want to ban anything that is this divisive and divides each other because of color, then I don't know what else to do. I just don't understand that part. I'm still trying to not understand it, because then I have to remember this is something evil, not good. You can't understand evil.
Blair: Right, no, I think you're absolutely right, that critical race theory is an evil philosophy. Shawntel, we are running a little low on time, so I wanted to ask you one final question. Seeing as we've seen success in pushing back against critical race theory, as you mentioned in Russell County, Virginia, and other places across the country, what advice would you give to parents who are trying to push back against these radical leftist policies in their own school districts across the country?
Cooper: Don't give up. … I think there's a mother in New York who is being sued for asking or actually obtaining the instructional material. When you are asking for something so simple, or something to come together, or something that has nothing to do with bad or being mean, and if someone is telling you how you should think instead of providing you this information, then that's when you need to question, “OK, but what are their intentions with my child?”
So parents, stay on top of your child's curriculum, instructional materials, books, lessons, literature. You have to protect your children and advocate for them, because they are the innocent and they are the future of America.
Blair: I think that's really, really great advice. That was Shawntel Cooper, a mom from Loudoun County, Virginia, who came to national attention when a video of her aired confronting the local school board over critical race theory in the classroom. Shawntel, thank you so much for joining us.
Cooper: Thank you for having me.
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