Image: Instagram post by former State Senator Don Huffines, who is running for Governor of Texas in the March 1, 2022, Republican Primary Election.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, January 13 – A transgender flag hanging in a Conroe classroom has become a major issue in the campaign for Governor of Texas, after former State Senator Don Huffines brought the issue to light on social media last Friday. Conroe Independent School District (CISD) is the tenth largest school district in Texas and has a strong academic reputation among public schools.
Huffines’ Instagram post showed the transgender flag hanging behind schoolchildren sitting at their desks trying to focus on learning. It, of course, raises the question why a flag or any portrayal of sexuality or political positions appear in a school where children are to learn.
Huffines commented, “A young Texan in Conroe just reached out to my campaign with information that his teacher hung up a transgender flag in their classroom. This is Leftist indoctrination and has no place in Texas. When I am governor, this flag will be gone and prayer will be back in school.”
CISD has previously been an epicenter of controversy over teacher behavior, although CISD Superintendent Curtis Null, one of the most highly respected educators in Texas, has noted that such conduct is an “outlier.” In its 2020-21 “Program of Studies” brochure, Conroe Independent School District (CISD) promises students and parents that the school district doesn’t discriminate based upon race in its educational curriculum.
Woodlands High School English teacher Heidi Bardenhagen has turned that promise upside down and secretly taught racism in her high school junior level dual credit English classes. Bardenhagen exhorted her students in mid-April, 2021, to accept her teaching “critical race theory” that whites in American society continue, as a race, to exert power over African-Americans on the basis of race regularly in the United States. What Bardenhagen didn’t know, however, was that at least one of her students recorded her racist outburst.
Bardenhagen told her English class students,
“Can we say white have power over black, please? Okay, thanks. And we don’t even have to pretend that it was during slavery times. Because if we were really just saying during slavery times, we wouldn’t have mass riots even happening today, even right this minute, because of another black person being shot unwarranted by police without being questioned. [Yells with sarcasm.] Thought that was the taser! Oops! So we still have the binary of whites have privilege over blacks.
Bardenhagen continued her rant,
“Okay? I know you’re like my toughest class, because I don’t how to read you guys. I really don’t. All my other classes, I know. I know how to read some of you. I don’t know how to read all of you. And it’s really frustrating as a teacher, because I’m trying to get through to you. And I’m trying to make you not just go through the motions and do the work, because you want a grade. I don’t care about grades. You need to chase the learning, not the A. If you chase the learning, the A will come. If you insist on the A, you’re going through the motions and you’re not learning. Okay? When I say the critical theories is where things get real, and, yes, I said the ‘s’ word before, because it is. You can’t tiptoe around this stuff. I’m trying to stretch your brains in some uncomfortable ways to help you see that there are a lot of different ways to see reality and life, and the things that you encounter on a daily, hourly, minute basis. You can do a feminist reading of that TikTok video within the last hour…”
Bardenhagen told her class as well, “the critical theories unit is where this s**t gets real.”
Bardenhagen never explained why “reading” her class had anything whatsoever to do with their studies allegedly in reading English literature. Bardenhagen never menetioned my “reading” her class was any sort of priority over “teaching” her class of students. Bargenhagen furthermore failed to explain that TikTok videos are far from English literature.
A July, 2021, video message from CISD Assistant Superintendent Tamika Taylor, which she sent to teachers across the CISD, revealed that the school district had begun careful plans how to skirt the new Texas law prohibiting such teaching. House Bill 3979, which State Representative Steve Toth authored, prohibited the teaching of the racist theory in social studies courses in Texas public schools.
The Taylor video made clear that CISD has committed to teaching “critical race theory” but trying to do so in a manner which would not draw out criticism from what the Taylor views as the “opposition,” apparently anti-racist, pro-American adherents. The video also made clear that CISD’s General Counsel, Carrie Galatas, views her role as trying to assist in the teaching of “critical race theory” in any way which will not cause a CISD teacher to get caught.
Taylor’s video came to light in response to a broad Texas Public Information Act request, which conservative activist and recent Woodlands High School graduate Konner Earnest sent to CISD. Earnest, who was the founder of a Turning Point USA Chapter at the Woodlands High School is now also the Montgomery County Coordinator for the Huffines gubernatorial campaign.
In the video, Taylor said, “There’s a lot of tension in the air about ‘critical race theory’ and the perceptions that were brought out at the board meeting about social emotion learning. I want you…to have a united front in answering those questions about that House bill.” Taylor explained that CISD’s leadership conference would deal with “culturally responsive teaching,” “diversity inclusion and equity,” and “a part on equitable learning.”
Taylor continued, “For situations like that, Carrie [Galatas, CISD’s General Counsel] advised that, as long as the presenters are not using the buzzwords that have been in the media, they will be fine.” Taylor suggested, “They might want to start their sessions out” by disclaiming that they are discussing personal opinions or beliefs.
Huffines’ positions are most certainly consistent with those of Texas Republicans. Plank 62 of the Republican Party Platform provides in part, “Texans should be free to express their religious beliefs, including prayer, in public places.” Planks 146 and 246 of the Platform express opposition to “transgender normalizing curriculum and pronoun use.”
Huffines faces incumbent Governor Greg Abbott, who has remained silent on these issues, in the Primary Election, in addition to some poorly-funded minor candidates who appear on the ballot with them.