A public letter alleging an NAIS member school violated its tax-exempt status represents a new strategy in the fight against political indoctrination at private schools.
Paul Rossi | Legal Insurrection | March 21, 2022
Parents at the elite private Westminster Schools in Atlanta are rebelling against the imposition of Critical Social Justice on their students. Westminster is a member school of National Association of Independent Schools.
A letter sent to the Internal Revenue Service signed “a Taxpayer” includes a list of 16 partisan incidents the author says qualifies Westminster as an “action organization,” violating the school’s tax-exempt status.
The full text of the letter is available on “Wokeminster,” a dissident parent group’s website. Examples cited include teachers allegedly denigrating Trump as a candidate, voicing wishes that Trump die from COVID, and assignments that favored Democrats.
Three of the allegations claiming electioneering in the classroom
A Spanish teacher allegedly asked students to translate “Donald Trump lost the election” and told children that it would be “muy bueno” if President Trump lost. In another incident, students were allowed to wear Biden/Harris t-shirts while a student who wore a “Make America Great Again” hat was reprimanded. The letter also claims the school distributed political cartoons characterizing Trump as “the Grinch who stole the 2016 election.”
An art teacher allegedly urged his students to draw President Trump as a fascist giving a salute characteristic of Hitler. The school displayed these visual art projects publicly both during and after the campaign season.
Political partisanship like this often finds expression in NAIS school classrooms, where zealous teachers abuse their power by pushing their biases on students. Administrators often interpret this behavior as aligned with NAIS’ Principles of Good Practice, particularly “Equity and Justice”.
On a Westminster Facebook message thread, Marjorie Mitchell, Director of Enrollment management, responded to a enthusiastic supporter of Senate candidates Raphael Warnock (D) and Jon Ossoff (D) by saying the school “got the current seniors registered, so we just need to sweep for any late birthdays” to identify any non-Seniors who were 18 or over. A parent also reported that teachers directly urged students in their “advisory” sessions to vote for Democrats.
However, non-profit educational institutions must refrain from partisan political activity. As Debra Wilson, NAIS legal counsel wrote in 2012:
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, Section 501(c)(3) organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office” at the federal, state, and local level. As will be explained below, this is an institutional prohibition against partisan campaign activities by the school itself and others acting on its behalf.”
Wilson goes on to say in that publication that “partisan comments should not be made, however, in official school publications or at any official school functions.”
Yet Westminster’s Center for Teaching made extremely partisan statements referencing the 2020 Presidential campaign, both on the school’s website and on Twitter.
It is unclear how the IRS will respond, or if legal action will ensue. In Georgia, the Secretary of State is responsible for oversight of charitable organizations like Westminster Schools. I will continue to monitor the response to political indoctrination as it develops in Atlanta private schools, both at Westminster and at the prestigious neighboring Lovett school, which has also been in turmoil in recent months.
A truck billboard at last year’s traditional football game between Westminster and neighboring rival Lovett.
This is the sixth in a series of articles devoted to exposing the radical influence of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) on the culture and curriculum at their 1,900 member schools, which include some of the most elite K-12 institutions in the country.
Paul Rossi is a high school mathematics teacher, tutor, and writer. In April 2021, he went public about the impact of Critical Race Theory and pedagogy on his students at Grace Church School, where he had taught since 2012. He is currently an advisor to the Educational Liberty Alliance and a co-host of Chalkboard Heresy (launching soon) Please send tips and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM on Twitter at @pauldrossi.