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U.S. district court will hear civil rights case alleging that anti-racism training created a racially hostile work environment


“I took great pride in my responsibility to support faculty and staff under my charge by promoting a work environment of unity and acceptance, not hostility and division. Unfortunately, standing on that principle cost me my job. With no checks or balances to protect individuals from a system that squelches all dissent, the school district created an environment so hostile that no reasonable person could be expected to stay.”


The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia has denied a Virginia school district’s attempt to dismiss the civil rights lawsuit of a former assistant principal who resigned after she was labeled a racist and repeatedly harassed during and after an anti-racism training session.

Quick Facts

Emily Mais, the former assistant principal at Agnor-Hunt Elementary School in Charlottesville, Virginia, for three years, filed suit against the Albemarle County School Board in April 2022. The case centers around an anti-racism training based on the book “Courageous Conversations About Race.” The book ascribes character attributes based on race, including that racism can only be committed by the dominant race, which it claims to be whites.

Mais, who served in her administrative role for three years, attended a mandatory online presentation orientation training. During that presentation, the school board’s assistant superintendent Dr. Bernard Hairston is alleged to have said that staff needed “to think about whether they were on the ‘anti-racism’ school bus, or if you need help finding your seat and keeping your seat, or if it’s time for you to just get off the bus.”

Teachers and staff were required to complete training based on the book, leading some staff to complain to Mais “about the racially hostile environment created by the training and the training materials and the hurtful and pejorative comments made by other staff members, which demonized them for being white.”

Mais expressed these concerns to Ashby Kindler who led the training, but the training was not changed.

On May 27, 2021, parents at a school board meeting voiced issues with the anti-racism training. The next day, Hairston claimed that “his ancestors were slaves owned by a wealthy Virginia family” and that “he received the parents’ comments as if they were slave owners who had raped his mother and sister, beaten him, and were now telling him not to talk about it.”

Hairston said the training was non-negotiable; he was supported by the superintendent and school board. In the final training, Mais suggested a way to analyze data regarding racial disparities in school board staff but, at one point, accidentally said “colored people” instead of the preferred “people of color.” Mais immediately apologized, but teacher’s aide Sheila Avery accused her of “speaking like old racists who told people of color to go to the back of the bus.”

After the incident, Mais was informed by some of the staff that others were cursing her and slandering her as a racist. When Mais told principal Dr. Mike Irani about the issues, he took no action.

Hairston requested to meet with Mais, Avery, Kindler, and guidance counselor Emily Holstrom. At the meeting, Mais repeatedly apologized, though Avery would not accept her apology. Mais expressed the detrimental effects on staff morale due to the trainings, but other staff dismissed her warning. Hairston suggested she apologize to the staff. Mais did not want to apologize considering she had already apologized during the training.

Mais resigned later that month because of the effects on her physical and mental health. When she resigned, the school board asked her to write a letter to school families saying she was leaving for another career opportunity. Mais reluctantly agreed and in her letter said that she was leaving for family reasons.

Mais was also asked to apologize to the staff before she left, which she reluctantly agreed to in order to remain on good terms. Before delivering her apology, Mais presented the draft of her apology to Avery and Holstrom. Avery told her she should not express her feelings in the apology, and Holstrom said Mais was “was inappropriately acting in a racist fashion like a typical defensive white person.”

When Mais apologized to the staff, Avery said she did not accept her apology and “that they could either be on her side or Mais’s side and that there was no in-between.”

She later contacted Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and filed a lawsuit against the school district. The District Court will allow part of Mais’s complaint to go forward, ruling, “considering the alleged repeated race-based comments, the School Board’s lack of intervention, and [Mais’s] emotional and mental distress, [Mais] has alleged a plausible racial hostile work environment claim under Title VII, which will survive the School Board’s motion to dismiss.”

In an op-ed she wrote for the New York Post, Mais explained,

“As an administrator, I have a duty to advocate policies that protect my students and serve their and their families’ best interests. I took great pride in my responsibility to support faculty and staff under my charge by promoting a work environment of unity and acceptance, not hostility and division. Unfortunately, standing on that principle cost me my job. With no checks or balances to protect individuals from a system that squelches all dissent, the school district created an environment so hostile that no reasonable person could be expected to stay.”

ADF Senior Counsel Hal Frampton laid out the legal justification for the case by explaining,

“Instead of training faculty members to embrace students of all races, Albemarle County school officials are using a curriculum that fosters racial hostility. The training sets up a classic Catch-22: It encourages all staff members to ‘speak their truth,’ but when a white person like Emily raises concerns about the divisive content, she is deemed a racist in need of further ‘anti-racism’ instruction. Emily believes every person is made in the image of God and entitled to equal treatment and respect, and Emily did her best to call school officials’ attention to the divisive ideology their training promoted. We’re pleased the court has allowed Emily’s case to proceed and urge it to affirm that Title VII protects Americans of all races from a workplace rife with racial hostility.”

By all accounts, Emily Mais was a good assistant principal, one who was dedicated to education and dedicated to the children who attend her school. She did her job to the best of her ability and got along with colleagues. Never once, prior to the incident at hand, did anyone accuse her of being racist towards children or staff.

But, because it was a job requirement, Mais dutifully attended this “anti-racist” training. What she didn’t know what that she was walking into a trap, the woke version of a communist struggle session designed to force her to walk a cruel gauntlet and get tripped up on farcical language codes. The goal was never to help her learn about and better understand the black experience in America. The goal was to “find” evidence that she is a racist.

This is not training, it’s a test. Those running “anti-racism” trainings have no desire to have empathic, meaningful, healing conversations about race in America and they certainly have no desire to positively impact (in this case) the education of schoolchildren. The goal isn’t to help someone be “anti-racist,” it’s to “officially” label that person a racist and then humiliate and shame them for it. And to be proven a racist, even if through a slip of the tongue, is a sin for which there is no atonement and certainly no grace — no matter how much apologizing or groveling is involved.

But don’t be fooled: CRT and anti-racism is harmful not only to white people, but also to black people. It segregates us, instills suspicion and distrust of others, and teaches all to hold on to rage and hate and to pursue vengeance. The Bible teaches us something better.

For starters, God does not categorize people by their race. He judges a person by the thoughts and attitudes of their heart, not their skin color (Hebrews 4:12); He shows no favoritism (Romans 2:11); and He judges each person for their individual behavior (Romans 2:6).

Now, if someone is truly racist towards someone else, there is a biblical prescription for how to respond, and it is not with bitterness, vindictiveness, or a lifelong grudge.

Instead, Luke 17:3-4, says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Jesus was clear that no matter how many times a person sins against us, we should forgive them. And Colossians 3:12-14 says,

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

If Christ has forgiven us, we must forgive others. Forgiveness shows a changed heart and benefits both the one forgiven and the one who forgives.

Americans must wake up to this toxic ideology that is being injected into our communities, schools, and even churches. Critical theory is a Marxist tactic designed to divide and conquer society by deconstructing all that is good and true about a country’s history, culture, and traditions through not just the lens of race but also sexuality, gender, and class.

Critical Theory in all its forms is the opposite of Christianity and the opposite of the American dream. Americans of all persuasions should reject it wherever it is found.

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.

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