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Why I’m Suing the Albemarle County School Board

Alliance Defending Freedom
Published on
School classroom

Ed. Note: The following piece, written by Alliance Defending Freedom client Carlos Ibanez, originally appeared at The Crozet Gazette.

School administrators in Albemarle County have a problem with people who hold ideas like mine.

I found that out when my child was told in a middle school language arts class that she could never really succeed in life. Why? Because she’s Latina.

A video shown in her class said only those who go to good schools, get high-paying jobs, and practice the right religion can hope to make it in America, and only white people can do those things.

My daughter was confused and distraught, since this contradicted everything we’d taught her. Her mother and I are Panamanian immigrants and successful doctors. We work hard, live in a nice home, and practice our Catholic faith. None of that has ever inhibited our ability to succeed in America. Why would it be different for my daughter? Why would her race determine her opportunities?

We met with her white language arts teacher and expressed our concerns, as Latino parents, that what was told to our daughter was racist. We were ignored.

As a first-generation American, I find the school’s attitude inexplicable. We’ve taught our children that skin color does not determine a person’s worth… that everyone has equal and innate human value… that anyone can succeed.

We’ve taught our children that, in America, they have a voice…legal rights…and can accomplish anything, if they’re willing to work hard and do their best. These beliefs are not unique to my family; they’re shared by many, if not most, Americans.

Unfortunately, those beliefs now seem repugnant to some in our educational system, who’ve decided that, given the characteristics listed above, my children and I must be racists, transphobes, and, as we were described, “a Fox-News-loving family.” These educators are pushing for inclusion—but only for those who agree with them.

Interestingly, the people most interested in labeling us racists are themselves promoting a policy that teaches children of all ethnicities to hate one racial group (white people) as a so-called remedy for the wickedness of hating another racial group (people of color). But bigotry doesn’t cure bigotry.

Yet, when a recent opinion piece in The Daily Progress chose to publish my name, my wife’s, and those of four other couples now suing the Albemarle County School Board for its race-obsessed curriculum and policies, the response was fast and, in a few instances, rabid.

The mother of one of my patients canceled her child’s surgery, saying she couldn’t let her youngster be operated on by a member of a terrorist organization. A person I’ve never met gave my practice a one-star review online, saying I’m a transphobe who doesn’t believe people should be referenced by their chosen pronouns.

Neither of these individuals know anything about me except that I have expressed concerns about this curriculum. But that objection alone allows them to impute all kinds of imagined evils to my character. Still, cancel culture only works on people who are afraid of it.

Many people in our community are afraid. They’ve talked to me. They share my concerns, but— terrified of being branded as “racists”—they keep quiet.

Mean words and exaggerated accusations don’t mean much, though, to people like my wife and me, who grew up under a brutal dictatorship. We’ve seen things much worse than being “canceled.” My cousin, a political figure in Panama during the Manuel Noriega regime, challenged some of that government’s policies. Soon after, he disappeared. They eventually found his tortured body, but not his head.

So, we came to America more than 20 years ago to live in a place where we could experience freedom, cast a vote, and voice our own opinions without fear of torture or death—a place where we would be judged for who we are and what we do, not for what others have done, whatever their economic status, race, or ethnicity.

Now, faced with an education system that embraces an ideology determined to undermine those ideals—a self-destructive ideology bent on replacing old bigotries with new ones—I find myself with two choices.

One: Moving my family to a different public school system. But what will that tell my children about America—or me, if I won’t stand to defend the beliefs I’ve taught them?

Two: Enrolling my children in a private school. But I pay taxes in this community. I believe in the public school system. Why should I abandon it to a racist ideology that I know will hurt children?

Despite the accusations in the recent Daily Progress piece, this issue is not about politics. It’s simply about right and wrong.

It’s wrong to treat people differently based on the color of their skin. It’s wrong, no matter what group does it, what fancy titles they put on it or what reasons they use to justify it. Sadly, that’s not what the school board wants my children to believe. They want to push a radical new racism on children and silence any parents who voice concerns about that.

That’s why our family and four others are suing the school board with the help of our attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom. We were ignored before, but we don’t intend to be ignored now.

Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom
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ADF is the world's largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, marriage and family, and parental rights.