A Connecticut gym teacher says his school threatened to fire him after he criticized its mandatory diversity training on "exploring privilege." But when he filed a grievance against the school, the local teachers' union dismissed the complaint without explanation.
John Grande filed the grievance against Hartford Public Schools for what he called targeted discipline—including threats of termination and further "Sensitivity Awareness" training—but the American Federation of Teachers Local 1018, which has jurisdiction over this arbitration process for teachers, rejected his plea, his attorney told the Washington Free Beacon. Grande, who has been a gym teacher for 30 years, said the union retaliated against him for refusing to join the labor group.
"Our employee handbook explicitly states that no employee of the Hartford public school system will be disciplined for exercising their right to free speech," Grande told the Free Beacon. "When asked for my reaction to the training, I expressed my disagreement and was punished for doing so."
Neither AFT Local 1018 nor the Hartford Board of Education responded to requests for comment.
Grande's complaint comes as national teachers' unions embrace race-based lesson plans and training. AFT president Randi Weingarten said last year that K-12 schools do not teach critical race theory but also said her union supports teachers who face backlash for race-based lessons. The National Education Association, meanwhile, pledged its support for schools that teach critical race theory but later removed the statement from its website following backlash.
The school district's mandatory presentation on privilege, obtained by the Free Beacon, states that "it is critical for everyone to reflect on privilege in this way in order to use our individual and collective privilege(s) for equity and social justice." The training included an activity for teachers to split into groups and discuss their privilege in eight categories: class, ability, race, gender/sex, sexuality, nationality/citizenship, religion, and "other."
"If a police car pulls me over, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race," one example of privilege read.
"I do not fear increased mortality from COVID-19 or standard medical procedures such as giving birth," another stated.
Grande said he expressed criticism about the training when the school district asked for feedback. Two of Grande's coworkers reported the gym teacher to the school district after he stated his frustrations about the training seminar.
Frank Ricci, a labor fellow at the Yankee Institute and a former union president of the New Haven Fire Department, said it appears the teachers' union and school district coordinated to target Grande for his beliefs.
"The Hartford School System, aided and abetted by the teachers' union, has failed our kids," Ricci told the Free Beacon. "Instead of focusing on their dismal test scores or bridging the achievement gap, they are focusing on 'privilege,' which is nothing more than a distraction for their failed education policies."
Grande in July filed a complaint at the Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations against AFT Local 1018 over its refusal to take up his grievance against the school. The union has complete control over arbitration of grievances and can reject specific cases. The Fairness Center, a nonprofit law firm that represents Grande at the state labor board, argued the union must represent all teachers equally.
"Officials are refusing to represent him simply because he isn't a member," Nathan McGrath, president of the Fairness Center, told the Free Beacon. "John is just asking the union to do its job so he can continue doing his."