Listen to this article here
All Cecelia Lewis, a black middle school principal, wanted was to feel welcome in Georgia, but as soon as rumors about her new job spread, parents threatened, blackmailed, and verbally abused her into leaving town.
At the Cherokee County School District, Lewis wanted a job as a teacher coach, something that would bring her close to the classroom. Still, the district leaders were so impressed by her interview that they suggested she apply for the reopening: The first administrator focused on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
Lewis was reluctant to accept the new role because she had never held such a position before. However, she knew that this profession would allow her to examine the district’s “systemic and educational practices” to better uplift the whole child.
Superintendent Brian Hightower stated in the March 2021 announcement for all new hires: “We are very pleased to add Cecelia to the CCSD family”. Hightower continued to rave about Lewis, saying, “Both her impressive credentials and enthusiasm are befitting of the role,” and to add icing to the cake, “she had a DEI action plan for us in four days.”
Black educator receives warning from unknown caller
Before moving south, Lewis was with family and friends when she received a call from an unknown person asking if she had heard of CRT. Lewis responded to the unrevealed person, “Yes—culturally appealing education.” Culturally appealing education connects a child’s roots with what they are learning in school. At the time, she was unfamiliar with the other CRT, Critical Race Theory, a theoretical framework developed in the 1980s to explain structural and systemic racism in society while also analyzing its impact on African Americans.
The caller told Lewis that wealthy white parents believed she wanted to introduce critical race theory into their school policies and were upset.
At this point, Lewis was unfamiliar with Critical Race Theory or why her parents thought she would teach this course. However, after white parents learned that Lewis had been hired, rumors quickly spread that she would be teaching the class.
Cecelia Lewis, a black educator, was asked to apply for the first-ever Georgia school district administrative position dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion.
White parents rallied to chase her out of town. Then they followed her to the next. https://t.co/zBfc3tsM69 pic.twitter.com/apgngLvav0
— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) June 16, 2022
White Georgia parents accuse black educators of teaching critical race theory
A month later, many white parents gathered to hold a meeting and address their concerns about the CRT. One presenter, Rhonda Thomas, explained: “It [CRT] teaches children that white people are inherently racist and oppressive, perhaps unknowingly… And all white people are responsible for all historical actions and should feel guilty.”
Another presenter, Noelle Kahaian, highlighted how to get attention at Georgia school board meetings while also explaining how to file criminal offenses against teachers.
After the school district called her to inform her of the parents’ outrage, Lewis was confused, realizing that her profession did not cover critical race theory.
However, the white harassment didn’t stop as she received numerous emails and handwritten letters calling her a Black Yankee. According to Lewis, the letters shared the same premise: “We don’t want you here, and we don’t want you pushing us to find out what’s going to happen if you get here.”
White mob of parents get black educator to quit…twice
On May 18, 2021, two days after the clubhouse meeting, the Cherokee County District in Georgia received over 100 letters urging Lewis to lose her job.
At the Cherokee County School District Assembly, the board of directors voted 4-1 and two negatives to approve the anti-CRT and anti-1619 project resolution. However, the crowd was still upset and things started to escalate when they started yelling at Lewis, resulting in Kyla Cromer adjourning the meeting. Even after she ended the session, the white parents still started screaming and screaming, saying, “We don’t want you!” Law enforcement officials escorted many members of the school board to protect them from angry parents.
The Lewis board members turned against her as she had to deal with all this hate on her own. Her husband was horrified and said, “That’s it. We don’t do this. You’re not going there.”
The day after the board meeting, Lewis quit her job because she didn’t want to work in a contentious environment.
Many parents claimed they were upset with Lewis for wanting to teach critical race theory, which was wrong. However, the harassment and threats continued even after they were told the course was not included in the new curriculum.
Lewis stated, “When those concerned about this were told that critical race theory is not what CCSD’s DEI effort is about, the discussion should have ended.”
After leaving the position of DEI administrator, Lewis began working at the Cobb County School District.
A Georgia group called 4CanDoMore said Lewis had a history “riddled with critical race theory,” and complaints began flooding the site demanding that Lewis be fired. Even after driving Lewis out of town, the white parents followed her to the Cobb County School District, where she realized there was no escape and resigned again.