Principal Who Was Accused of Promoting Critical Race Theory Put on Leave Amid Controversy

A high school principal in Colleyville, Texas, was placed on paid administrative leave on Monday, just one month after he became entwined in a district controversy regarding Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Kristin Snively, a spokesperson for the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) told Newsweek in an email that Dr. James Whitfield was placed on immediate paid leave due to a "personal matter," without sharing any further details.

"On Monday, August 30, Dr. James Whitfield was placed on paid administrative leave. As this is an ongoing personnel matter, we will not comment further. We remain committed to providing a learning environment at Colleyville Heritage that fosters and encourages student academic and extracurricular achievement," Snively said.

The move comes just one month after Whitfield, the first Black principal of Colleyville Heritage High School, was accused during a school board meeting in July of teaching and promoting Critical Race Theory.

During that meeting, Stetson Clark, a former school board candidate, accused Whitfield of "encouraging the disruption and destruction of our districts," by writing about systemic racism in a message to families after the murder of George Floyd last summer, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. Clark then called for Whitfield to be fired.

In response, Whitfield denied the accusations in a July 31 Facebook post and said that some district members have focused on his role as a Black educator to paint a negative view of him.

"At the last GCISD school board meeting, an individual was allowed to speak my name in a public open forum [against the rules] and I can no longer maintain my silence in the face of this hate, intolerance, racism, and bigotry," Whitfield wrote, while adding that he's repeatedly been told to just "get around the fact that there are some racist people" and "just deal with it and stay positive."

"I am not the CRT [Critical Race Theory] Boogeyman. I am the first African American to assume the role of Principal at my current school in its 25-year history, and I am keenly aware of how much fear this strikes in the hearts of a small minority who would much rather things go back to the way they used to be," he added.

Whitfield then went on to say that while an "overwhelming majority" of community members in Colleyville have supported him, he has experienced multiple incidents of racism throughout the past several months.

He referenced an incident in 2019, when he was working as a principal at Heritage Middle School, and district officials asked him to take down Facebook photos of him and his wife—who is white—kissing on a beach. Officials told Whitfield to take down the photo because they "don't want to get stuff stirred up"—signaling to Whitfield that his race played a dominant role in the district.

"It was at this moment that I knew the attack that we currently endure, was coming. There are numerous examples of these sorts of racist threats and statements directed my way, but I continued to take the high road and focus on my mission and purpose, as nothing was ever done to alleviate or deter these threats on my behalf," he wrote on Facebook.

The Grapevine-Colleyville school district later responded to Whitfield's statements by saying the request to remove the photos had nothing to do with race, the Star-Telegram reported.

Since the July school board meeting, hundreds of students, parents, and teachers showcased their support for Whitfield, the news outlet reported. A petition urging the board to keep Whitfield as principal has so far received over 1,500 signatures, and dozens of students protested outside of the district's administration building last week in his support.

A principal in Colleyville, Texas, was placed on administrative leave after becoming entwined in a controversy surrounding Critical Race Theory. Here, a road sign says "Welcome to Texas" on May 9, 2017. Drew Angerer/Getty Images