Civil rights seminar at New Trier becomes political flashpoint

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NORTHFIELD -- The polarizing national political climate hit home on the North Shore Monday night, as parents packed a school board meeting over an upcoming seminar at New Trier High School titled, "Understanding today’s struggle for racial civil rights."

Some parents call those "fightin' words."

Critics say it's too liberal and they want the program changed or cancelled, while supporters are fighting to keep it. The program has set parents, activists, and teachers at odds. In no small part because it’s New Trier, the event has been making national headlines, and not necessarily in a positive way.

A Wall Street Journal editorial referred to it as "racial indoctrination day." But staff at the school say it has become way overblown, and support for it at the New Trier Township High School District 203 meeting Monday night was pretty overwhelming.

Over 100 people signed up to speak Monday night, and administrators took flak for what some are calling a "far left-wing agenda" and for refusing to let parents make changes to the program.

Staff say it’s too late to make any changes - the seminar happens a week from Tuesday.

"A day such as this all-school seminar day helps students build understanding and gives them a better chance to enter into service with a better chance at partnership,” said Dr. Timothy Hayes, assistant superintendent.

It’s the term ‘racial civil rights’ that has some parents concerned..Worried about children at an iconic high school facing what they fear might be an unbalanced introduction to some sensitive subject-matter..”

In a statement, Superintendent Dr. Linda Yonke said:
"New Trier has been planning this year's seminar day on civil rights since last spring. We are proud of the work that our committee of 30 administrators, faculty, and students has done to prepare for this day devoted to critical thinking and discussion around an important topic.”