DALLAS — Mia Witt said she was “flabbergasted” when she checked her work email account during her planning period on Wednesday morning. The Dallas ISD teacher read the message from Save Texas Kids, an organization she’d never heard of, and assumed it was further fallout from a recent DISD security breach.
The email, penned by the group’s president, Natalie Cato, asked teachers to act as informants against employees promoting critical race theory and “gender fluidity.”
Witt immediately hit the “unsubscribe” button and vanquished the email to her trash folder.
“I felt like, in reading the email, this person has never been in a public school,” Witt said. “You’ve never interacted with anyone that may have experienced changing their gender identification or, just the idea that this is a unicorn somewhere instead of actual people with actual feelings that are valid.”
Cato, who was a field director for the Republican Party of Texas and worked on Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, promised that if a teacher or staffer contacts Save Texas Kids, her group would investigate and take the necessary action.
Witt said she isn’t worried about any of her co-workers reporting her.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “The school and culture that I work in, I'm not at all concerned about that. I don't even know who people would be snitching to. I do not think that any of my co-workers are going to send an email to the tip line."
So far, Cato told Spectrum News, multiple teachers have reported back with information or words of encouragement.
“Our goal is to make sure kids are not being taught they are inferior to any other student or that they are responsible for any sort of ‘cultural oppression’ just because of their skin color, or that they cannot achieve what other students can due to skin color,” she said. “Furthermore, we believe that girl’s sports need to remain exactly that: for biological females; and to make sure that minors are not being subjected to irreversible gender therapies.”
Robyn Harris, director of news and information for Dallas ISD, said she wasn’t aware of the emails until members of the media began calling her about it after a journalist’s tweet. No one employed by the district has yet to reach out to her office to discuss the email.
The Dallas school district, Harris said, has never taught CRT — and noted the practice was recently outlawed by the state legislature. She didn’t know what “predatory gender fluidity” meant but pointed out that, several years ago, the district passed a resolution that Dallas schools would create “safe and welcoming spaces for everyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation,” she said.
For example, Harris added, the district would accommodate a student who identifies as a gender other than the one he/she was assigned as birth — though she couldn’t say whether that was widespread in practice.
Cato's example of advocating gender fluidity was the practice of allowing biological males to compete against girls in athletic events. She also said multiple teachers had come forward suggesting that literature frequently used to propagate CRT is being taught to students.
“We are the in the process of confirming those reports,” she said.
Save Texas Kids is one among a new breed of conservative activist groups focused on education. School policy and school board politics have landed squarely in the crosshairs of right-wing activists around the country. Over the last two years, at least 165 local and national groups that aim to disrupt lessons on race and gender have arisen and taken political action, according to an NBC News analysis of media reports and organizations’ promotional materials. Reinforced by conservative think tanks, law firms and activist parents, these groups have found allies in families frustrated over COVID-19 restrictions in schools and have weaponized the right’s opposition to critical race theory, turning it into a political rallying point.
Virtually all school districts insist they are not teaching critical race theory, but many activists and parents have begun using it as a catch-all term to refer to what schools often call equity programs, teaching about racism or LGBTQ-inclusive policies.
Last year, conservative activist Christopher Rufo began using the term “critical race theory” publicly to denounce anti-racist education efforts. Since then, conservative lawmakers, commentators and parents have raised alarms that CRT is being used to teach children that they are racist and that the U.S. is a racist country with irredeemable roots.
While the efforts vary, activist groups share strategies of disruption, publicity and mobilization. The groups swarm school board meetings, inundate districts with time-consuming public records requests and file lawsuits and federal complaints alleging discrimination against white students.
Cato said she culled her email list from public sources, which is why not every teacher or administrator was included.
In her message to educators, Cato asserted that “the game is rigged against kids, parents and teachers who want to do the right thing. But with your help, it doesn’t have to be. A vast majority of parents and teachers want our kids to learn in a healthy environment un-afflicted by radical politics and weird theories. Most of us want kids to learn the skills that will help them be good citizens and good providers. We can use all the help we can get.”
Cato said that supporters of Save Texas Kids have already been confronted by those who oppose its mission.
“Just as groups on the internet are already trying to doxx and ‘cancel' those involved with Save Texas Kids, parents, teachers or students who speak out against CRT are publicly shamed, and, in the case of students and teachers, often disciplined.”
If Save Texas Kids is tipped off by a district employee, she said the group’s leaders plan on confronting school and district officials on the issue.