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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

New York State Fights Racism in State Courts


New York’s courts continue efforts to combat racism

By Rachel Vick,, May 17, 2021

Just six months after the release of a report outlining racism in the state’s court system, leaders shared an update on the steps they are taking to eliminate system-wide bias.

The dozen recommendations made by the Special Adviser on Equal Justice in the Courts, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, were issued in October 2020 to mitigate pervasive racism within the courts by declaring a zero-tolerance policy and implementing bias training. 

“There is no greater priority for the court system than the implementation of the Special Adviser's recommendations,” Chief Administrative Judge Marks said on Monday. “I am gratified by the significant progress made these past few months and look forward to further developments in our pursuit to combat racial and other bias systemwide.” 

Marks described the task force’s ongoing efforts as a “critically-important undertaking” and “a wide-ranging endeavor that relies on the collaboration and support” from all parties involved. 

To date, the courts have taken steps including improving high ranking court official’s outreach, mandatory training for all judges and nonjudicial staff on racial bias and implicit bias, mandatory name tags for court personnel, updating the court system’s juror orientation video to address juror bias, increasing visibility of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission and Office of Diversity and Inclusion, increasing language access and the inclusion of diversity in a new Unified Court System mission statement.

“In the service of our mission, the UCS is committed to operating with integrity and transparency, and to ensuring that all who enter or serve in our courts are treated with respect, dignity, and professionalism,” the new statement reads.  “We affirm our responsibility to promote a court system free from any and all forms of bias and discrimination, and to promote a judiciary and workforce that reflect the rich diversity of New York State.” 

They are also working to increase awareness of the Inspector General’s office, including its Bias Matters Unit, where court system employees and court users can file complaints, and increase access through an intermediary. 

Judge Edwina Mendelson, who is overseeing the overhaul, is launching a website to highlight the vision and ongoing work of the Equal Justice in the Court's Initiative in the coming weeks. She is also in the process of organizing court officer community outreach programs and a community affairs appointee in each courthouse to improve public trust.

“It is a professional and personal privilege for me to oversee implementation of the Special Adviser’s recommendations for eliminating racial bias in the courts and promoting meaningful diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels,” Mendelssohn said. “I have deep faith in the strength of our commitment and a strong belief in our collective will to meet this moment – and to fulfill our obligation to provide equal justice in all our courts.”

Saturday, May 15, 2021

NY Senate Investigation of Cuomo's Handling of COVID-19 in Nursing Homes is Stalled


It seems that politics takes precedence over needless deaths due to COVID-19 in New York. Cuomo's malfeasance must be addressed in full.

Remove Governor Cuomo from his position.

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ blog
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Governor Andrew Cuomo

Impeachment, Investigations Stall Nursing Home Probe 

JOHN WHITTAKER,, May 13, 2021

State Senate probe of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes is taking a back seat to the Assembly’s impeachment inquiry for Cuomo.

Sen. Rachel May, D-Syracuse, made the statement in response to a question by Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, in regard to a statement in March by Sen. James Skoufis, D-Newburgh. Skoufis had told The New York Post he would consider a probe led by the Senate Investigations Committee, in coordination with the Senate Aging Committee.

Serino asked May the status of that investigation during a Senate Aging Committee meeting on Tuesday.

“My understanding is the Assembly’s Impeachment inquiry took precedence over that, so we are waiting for the various investigations that are ongoing, including an FBI investigation to run their course,” May said. “That’s my understanding.”

Serino’s request came after May denied Serino’s motion for the Aging Committee to issue a subpoena for Dr. Howard Zucker, state health commissioner, to appear before the Aging Committee to discuss a Feb. 10 phone call between Democratic lawmakers and Cuomo administration staff members during which Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Cuomo, said the administration froze and admitted withholding information about nursing home deaths from state legislators who had been requesting the information for months.

“New Yorkers deserve absolute transparency on this issue,” Serino said. “Yet to date the committees that can take action to get to the bottom of how and why decisions were made that impacted nursing home residents during the pandemic have refused to leverage their full power to do that. You yourself come from the world of academia, Madame Chair.”

“At the very least don’t you think we owe it to those who have been impacted to perform a complete top to bottom review of the state’s handling of the COVID crisis in our nursing homes? Without that, we can’t set effective state policy and we can’t be fully prepared going forward.”

May denied the request, ruling the motion out of order before giving Serino a chance to appeal. State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Aging Committee member seconded Serino’s motion.

“We have the power here to do this now,” Borrello said. “Rattling sabers in front of TV cameras is not where we get this done. We can get it done here in Albany with this committee by approving this motion so that we can have a subpoena issued to have Dr. Zucker, Melissa DeRosa and everyone else appear before this committee. Let’s talk about this partial transcript, this FOIL request that was denied. There are several missing minutes from that transcript which really reminds me of another recording where several minutes were missing — and certainly that’s the Watergate scandal that brought down an entire presidency.”

Serino filed a Freedom of Information Law request for a transcript of the Feb. 10 meeting. That request was denied in part because the governor’s office issued a transcript of the event. Serino has argued that the denial implies that the meeting recording must differ in a way substantial enough to set it apart from the transcript that was readily released, and has appealed the FOIL denial.

“As chair, it is my prerogative and I’m going to rule this motion out of order pursuant to Rule 7, Section 2,” May said. “I also will mention that having been part of that conversation that the transcript is quite accurate … There’s nothing missing that I’m aware of from that transcript. In any case, I rule it out of order.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Paul Rossi, Teacher at Grace Church School, Fired For Opposing Critical Race Theory-Based Curriculum


Paul Rossi

From the Editor:

Paul Rossi is a hero to parents who want their children to be taught how to think critically, not what to think.

Here is an update:

Teacher at posh NJ prep school quits over critical race theory

Betsy Combier

On "The Rubin Report" this week, BlazeTV host Dave Rubin spoke with Paul Rossi, a math teacher at Grace Church School in New York City who "was relieved of his teaching duties" after he blew the whistle on the private school's critical race theory-based curriculum. Rossi made his case in an open letter titled, "I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated," which was published by former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss.

POLL: What scares you the most?

Paul detailed the fallout from questioning the "antiracist" education lessons that his school was forcing him to teach, why he decided to go public, and how Bari Weiss helped him. He also described how George Davison, the head of the school, admitted he thinks the school's curriculum is "demonizing" white students "for being born" and making white kids "feel less than, for nothing that they are personally responsible for." Davison denied these claims, saying Rossi "misquoted" him, but an audio recording of the conversation tells a different story.

The Dalton School

You Have to Read This Letter

A New York father pulls his daughter out of Brearley with a message to the whole school. Is the dam starting to break?

Bari Weiss, Substack, April 16, 2021

I was planning to publish a roundup today of the many thoughtful responses to Paul Rossi’s essay. I’m going to save that post for Sunday, because I was just sent this letter that has my jaw on the floor. It was written by a Brearley parent named Andrew Gutmann.

Andrew Gutmann

If you don’t know about Brearley, it’s a private all-girls school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It costs $54,000 a year and prospective families apparently have to take an “anti-racism pledge” to be considered for admission. (In the course of my reporting for this piece I spoke to a few Brearley parents.)

Gutmann chose to pull his daughter, who has been in the school since kindergarten, and sent this missive to all 600 or so families in the school earlier this week. Among the lines:

If Brearley’s administration was truly concerned about so-called “equity,” it would be discussing the cessation of admissions preferences for legacies, siblings, and those families with especially deep pockets. If the administration was genuinely serious about “diversity,” it would not insist on the indoctrination of its students, and their families, to a single mindset, most reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

I’m pasting the whole thing below.

Meantime, I’m going to ask Andrew Gutmann to join Paul Rossi and me for our subscriber-only conversation this coming Tuesday night. I hope he’ll join. Details about that event will be in Sunday’s post.

I promise: this newsletter won’t be exclusively about education. But my gosh is it a wild right story to follow right now. . .

See you Sunday.

April 13, 2021 

Dear Fellow Brearley Parents, 

Our family recently made the decision not to re-enroll our daughter at Brearley for the 2021-22 school year. She has been at Brearley for seven years, beginning in kindergarten. In short, we no longer believe that Brearley’s administration and Board of Trustees have any of our children’s best interests at heart. Moreover, we no longer have confidence that our daughter will receive the quality of education necessary to further her development into a critically-thinking, responsible, enlightened, and civic-minded adult. I write to you, as a fellow parent, to share our reasons for leaving the Brearley community but also to urge you to act before the damage to the school, to its community, and to your own child's education is irreparable. 

It cannot be stated strongly enough that Brearley’s obsession with race must stop. It should be abundantly clear to any thinking parent that Brearley has completely lost its way. The administration and the Board of Trustees have displayed a cowardly and appalling lack of leadership by appeasing an anti-intellectual, illiberal mob, and then allowing the school to be captured by that same mob. What follows are my own personal views on Brearley's antiracism initiatives, but these are just a handful of the criticisms that I know other parents have expressed. 

I object to the view that I should be judged by the color of my skin. I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the color of her skin but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs. By viewing every element of education, every aspect of history, and every facet of society through the lens of skin color and race, we are desecrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and utterly violating the movement for which such civil rights leaders believed, fought, and died. 

I object to the charge of systemic racism in this country, and at our school. Systemic racism, properly understood, is segregated schools and separate lunch counters. It is the interning of the Japanese and the exterminating of Jews. Systemic racism is unequivocally not a small number of isolated incidences over a period of decades. Ask any girl, of any race, if they have ever experienced insults from friends, have ever felt slighted by teachers, or have ever suffered the occasional injustice from a school at which they have spent up to 13 years of their life, and you are bound to hear grievances, some petty, some not. We have not had systemic racism against Blacks in this country since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s, a period of more than 50 years. To state otherwise is a flat-out misrepresentation of our country's history and adds no understanding to any of today's societal issues. If anything, longstanding and widespread policies such as affirmative action, point in precisely the opposite direction. 

I object to a definition of systemic racism, apparently supported by Brearley, that any educational, professional, or societal outcome where Blacks are underrepresented is prima facie evidence of the aforementioned systemic racism, or of white supremacy and oppression. Facile and unsupported beliefs such as these are the polar opposite to the intellectual and scientific truth for which Brearley claims to stand. Furthermore, I call bullshit on Brearley's oft-stated assertion that the school welcomes and encourages the truly difficult and uncomfortable conversations regarding race and the roots of racial discrepancies. 

I object to the idea that Blacks are unable to succeed in this country without aid from government or from whites. Brearley, by adopting critical race theory, is advocating the abhorrent viewpoint that Blacks should forever be regarded as helpless victims, and are incapable of success regardless of their skills, talents, or hard work. What Brearley is teaching our children is precisely the true and correct definition of racism. 

I object to mandatory anti-racism training for parents, especially when presented by the rent-seeking charlatans of Pollyanna. These sessions, in both their content and delivery, are so sophomoric and simplistic, so unsophisticated and inane, that I would be embarrassed if they were taught to Brearley kindergarteners. They are an insult to parents and unbecoming of any educational institution, let alone one of Brearley's caliber. 

I object to Brearley’s vacuous, inappropriate, and fanatical use of words such as “equity,” “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” If Brearley’s administration was truly concerned about so-called “equity,” it would be discussing the cessation of admissions preferences for legacies, siblings, and those families with especially deep pockets. If the administration was genuinely serious about “diversity,” it would not insist on the indoctrination of its students, and their families, to a single mindset, most reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Instead, the school would foster an environment of intellectual openness and freedom of thought. And if Brearley really cared about “inclusiveness,” the school would return to the concepts encapsulated in the motto “One Brearley,” instead of teaching the extraordinarily divisive idea that there are only, and always, two groups in this country: victims and oppressors. 

l object to Brearley’s advocacy for groups and movements such as Black Lives Matter, a Marxist, anti-family, heterophobic, anti-Asian, and anti-Semitic organization that neither speaks for the majority of the Black community in this country, nor in any way, shape or form, represents their best interests. 

I object to, as we have been told time and time again over the past year, that the school’s first priority is the safety of our children. For goodness sake, Brearley is a school, not a hospital! The number one priority of a school has always been, and always will be, education. Brearley’s misguided priorities exemplify both the safety culture and “cover-your-ass” culture that together have proved so toxic to our society and have so damaged the mental health and resiliency of two generations of children, and counting. 

I object to the gutting of the history, civics, and classical literature curriculums. I object to the censorship of books that have been taught for generations because they contain dated language potentially offensive to the thin-skinned and hypersensitive (something that has already happened in my daughter's 4th-grade class). I object to the lowering of standards for the admission of students and for the hiring of teachers. I object to the erosion of rigor in classwork and the escalation of grade inflation. Any parent with eyes open can foresee these inevitabilities should antiracism initiatives be allowed to persist. 

We have today in our country, from both political parties, and at all levels of government, the most unwise and unvirtuous leaders in our nation’s history. Schools like Brearley are supposed to be the training grounds for those leaders. Our nation will not survive a generation of leadership even more poorly educated than we have now, nor will we survive a generation of students taught to hate its own country and despise its history. 

Lastly, I object, with as strong a sentiment as possible, that Brearley has begun to teach what to think, instead of how to think. I object that the school is now fostering an environment where our daughters, and our daughters’ teachers, are afraid to speak their minds in class for fear of “consequences.” I object that Brearley is trying to usurp the role of parents in teaching morality, and bullying parents to adopt that false morality at home. I object that Brearley is fostering a divisive community where families of different races, which until recently were part of the same community, are now segregated into twoThese are the reasons why we can no longer send our daughter to Brearley. 

Over the past several months, I have personally spoken to many Brearley parents as well as parents of children at peer institutions. It is abundantly clear that the majority of parents believe that Brearley’s antiracism policies are misguided, divisive, counterproductive and cancerous. Many believe, as I do, that these policies will ultimately destroy what was until recently, a wonderful educational institution. But as I am sure will come as no surprise to you, given the insidious cancel culture that has of late permeated our society, most parents are too fearful to speak up. 

But speak up you must. There is strength in numbers and I assure you, the numbers are there. Contact the administration and the Board of Trustees and demand an end to the destructive and anti-intellectual claptrap known as antiracism. And if changes are not forthcoming then demand new leadership. For the sake of our community, our city, our country and most of all, our children, silence is no longer an option. 


Andrew Gutmann

Jim Best, Former Headmaster at The Dalton School

Dalton headmaster quits while Brearley dad writes scathing letter

Published April 23, 2021Updated April 30, 2021

In the wake of George Floyd, elite institutions have tried to check their privilege. Not everybody is on board.

In the way that college football grinds the Southeast to a halt on any given fall Saturday, a private-school drama in New York flattens the attentions of the city’s moneyed class for anything else, days on end. In this regard, it has been quite a season. Within a period of roughly 92 hours during the week of April 11, the news coming from the Ivy League training grounds hit observers with the pace of an angry linebacker tearing in from the blindside.

Here now, we were introduced to Andrew Gutmann, author of an enraged letter — sent through the mail and postmarked from New Jersey — to hundreds of families at Brearley, the Upper East Side girls’ school where his daughter was enrolled and where changes were making him very grumpy. Mr. Gutmann, the founder of something called the Institute for Finance Education and Career Advancement, who had once run an apparel wholesaler, was going to pull her out, he explained to many people who surely did not care. Brearley — a school with mandatory Latin, a ninth-grade experience full of Shakespeare and Jane Austen — was too busy “gutting” its curriculum and appeasing an “anti-intellectual mob.”

Thanks to Fox News and all the other outlets dedicated to the notion that elite liberal institutions have abandoned any hope of sanity in the name of social revolution, Mr. Gutmann soon became a minor celebrity on the right — which might have been the whole point.

There, he was joined by a math teacher named Paul Rossi, who had composed a letter of his own, seemingly to the nation at large, laying out his objections to the way that his employer, the Grace Church School in Lower Manhattan, was going about the business of changing its culture around race. Mr. Rossi’s note lacked the hysterical tone of Mr. Gutmann’s. It raised valid concerns about the squelching of free thought. But he also took the dubious step of publicizing part of a secretly taped conversation he had with the school’s headmaster, George Davison, in which he goaded his boss, as if he were a prosecutor grilling a witness, into acknowledging that the new programming demonized white students.

By the end of last week the conversation turned to the Dalton School, where Jim Best, the widely admired headmaster, announced that he was stepping down, amid conflicting agendas around these same issues. Who could blame him? Things were only bound to become more and more unmanageable.

The roots of all this chaos extend, more or less, to late last summer, as parents from Chilmark to Amagansett laid down their tennis gear, poured their Negronis and banged out angry emails to administrators and trustees, apoplectic that a $55,000 annual tuition might not guarantee that their children would receive in-person daily learning. Once the academic year got underway — with far more live classroom instruction than the city’s public schools — there were new dissatisfactions to nurture.

The calls for racial parity in the wake of George Floyd’s murder demanded a response from institutions that market their enlightenment even as they persist in advancing the privileges of largely rich, white populations. Over the summer, Black alumni and parents at some of the country’s most prestigious independent schools took to Instagram to document deeply troubling experiences with prejudice at the hands of teachers, students, families. Many stories came not from the long-ago past but from the annals of recent history. Former Dalton students, for example, relayed anecdotes about white classmates likening Black people to gorillas, about a friend’s mother who asked whether “Black men were really violent.” On and on went the horror and indignity.

Nearly every private school in the country thus spent the summer scrambling to intensify curriculums and training around race and racial sensitivity, often with the help of diversity consultants whose approach can feel dependent on jargon and contrived simplicities. The revolution was coming, but it would be filtered through the ethos of a re-education camp born on the campus of a business school.

Whether consultants were directly involved or not, it soon became clear that not all parents were on board with the new order. In November, the former newscaster Megyn Kelly announced on her podcast that she was pulling her sons out of their “woke” Upper West Side school, which turned out to be Collegiate, serving the intellectually adept since 1628. The breaking point for her was a letter circulating within the community, written by an outside champion of racially progressive education, arguing that “there’s a killer cop sitting in every school where White children learn.” However hyperbolic, it was hard to miss the irony: there are almost certainly no future cops in the classrooms of Collegiate, only future cabinet members and managing directors at Citibank.

The pushback did not end, however, with those who have had to make on-air apologies for remarks uncritical of blackface. In December, a group of Dalton parents and alumni wrote an anonymous letter to the school community titled “Loving Concern @ Dalton.” They worried about “an obsessive focus on race and identity,” filling their children’s days at school. With remote learning giving parents an opportunity to spy on what their children were getting taught all day, these parents did not like what they were hearing — “a pessimistic and age-inappropriate litany of grievances in EVERY class.”

The new programming seemed designed to divide and provoke guilt, they maintained, forcing white children to feel bad about being white. While guilt might seem like a fraught path to reform, it was also the case that these parents weren’t the best representatives of a viewpoint challenging the emerging orthodoxies. Their letter was seven pages long, and the sentence “To be clear, we abhor racism” did not present itself until paragraph 13. The Brearley dad was an even more appalling spokesman, given his belief that “we have not had systemic racism against Blacks in this country since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s.”

Private schools find themselves now at an existential moment. Over the past few decades, as they have become dominated by wealthier and wealthier families, they have found themselves more and more beholden to the habits of modern corporate culture, which has had a long love affair with consultants and the outsourcing of difficult problems. Right now there are lots of specialists popping up, eager to capitalize on institutional insecurity around diversity initiatives. One of them, Pollyanna, has advised Dalton, Brearley and also the Grace Church School.

The problem, though, is that consultants often present a blanket approach that fails to recognize the particulars of an institutional culture; the language deployed from one school (or company) to another is scarcely any different. Everything begins to sound as though it has its origins in Oz — inauthentic and alienating.

Mr. Rossi’s letter argued that students and teachers at Grace did not feel free to challenge a new language or ideology. When he did, he was reprimanded for “acting like an independent agent of a set of principles or ideas or beliefs,” he wrote. After the letter became public, Mr. Davison, the head of school, put together a committee to bring voices from all sides of the debate together. He asked Mr. Rossi to join, but Mr. Rossi instead chose to leave the school.

In a conversation I had with Mr. Davison last weekend, he was very frank about the imperfect nature of the changes at Grace. “We were in the process of developing programming faster than we ever had before,’’ he told me. “Whenever you build something quickly, you don’t always see all the pieces. The ones who are going to help you build it the most quickly are the true believers,” he said. But the truest believers are not always those in the best position to advance change without fear. “We need to be better at communicating those things. We need to get more opinion.” The truth, he said, was that most people were on board with the new mission. “If we were a school in Oklahoma, we might not have the consensus.”

When I asked a high school senior I know about what was missing in his diversity, equity and inclusion training at his private school, he said that often what was left out was “a basic focus on decency and empathy.” Kids want to know how to talk to their friends openly, he said, and they just don’t want to be jerks.

Ginia Bellafante has served as a reporter, critic and, since 2011, as the Big City columnist. She began her career at The Times as a fashion critic, and has also been a television critic. She previously worked at Time magazine. @GiniaNYT

Virginia public school divides students between 'oppressed' and 'privileged', deems straight, white, Christian males 'privileged'

A document distributed by the Loudoun County Public School district's equity czar divided people into two groups: those who are privileged, and those who are oppressed.