California teacher who criticized 'Woke Kindergarten' program put on leave

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A California teacher who publicly criticized his school district’s investment in a “Woke Kindergarten” program was placed on administrative leave Thursday, the teacher said.

Hayward Unified School District teacher Tiger Craven-Neeley told the San Francisco Chronicle he was asked to hand over his keys and laptop and not return to his classroom at Glassbrook Elementary until further notice. 

School officials told the teacher he was being placed on paid leave over “allegations of unprofessional conduct,” but gave no other reason, Craven-Neeley told the paper. 

“We don’t comment on private personnel matters,” district spokesman Michael Bazeley wrote in an email response to Fox News Digital’s questions. He denied that Craven-Neeley was put on leave for “retaliatory purposes” or that he was being punished for speaking to the press. 

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Tiger Craven-Neeley smiles in a yellow sweater and black glasses in a photo shared on social media

Glassbrook Elementary teacher Tiger Craven-Neeley says he was placed on administrative leave after publicly criticizing a “Woke Kindergarten” training program at his school.  (Tiger Craven-Neeley/ Facebook)

Craven-Neeley was placed on leave days after he raised concerns about Woke Kindergarten, a for-profit company Glassbrook Elementary hired to train teachers. 

The school spent $250,000 in federal funds provided by a program meant to help boost test scores for some of the country’s lowest-performing schools, according to the Chronicle, but after two years with Woke Kindergarten, students’ scores are reportedly worse. 

In a 4% drop in both areas in the last two years, less than 12% of the students at Glassbrook Elementary in Hayward, Calif., can read at their grade level, and under 4% are proficient in math, according to the Chronicle. 

Woke Kindergarten describes itself on its website as “supporting children, families, educators and organizations in their commitment to abolitionist early education and pro-black and queer and trans liberation.”

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The front entrance to Glassbrook Elementary School seen from the sidewalk

A general view of Glassbrook Elementary School in Hayward, California.  (Google Street View)

The organization also has “Woke” words of the day like ceasefire “abolish” and “Woke Wonderings” about challenging the “legitimacy of the Supreme Court” and abolishing the police, money and the military. 

Glassbrook is predominantly Latino/ Hispanic and more than 80% of students are English learners, the Chronicle reported. Some teachers complained anonymously about the funds spent on teaching children to be “abolitionists” while reading scores are low, but Craven-Neeley spoke out on the record. 

He was quoted saying that Woke Kindergarten trainers told him he should try to “disrupt Whiteness” in the classroom. 

“What does that mean?” Craven-Neeley said to the Chronicle. “I just want to know, what does that mean for a third-grade classroom?”

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Other teachers have defended the program, arguing that a new approach is needed since a strict focus on academics has not improved learning. 

“We need to try something else,” kindergarten teacher Christina Aguilera told the Chronicle. “If we just focus on academics, it’s not working. There is no one magic pill that will raise test scores.” 

Since the Chronicle report and subsequent national media coverage, Glassbrook has received dozens of “threatening and racist” messages, district spokesman Michael Bazely confirmed to Fox News Digital.

Craven-Neeley, who said he supports discussing racism in the classroom, told the Chronicle he attempted to voice his concerns at a staff meeting on Wednesday before going to the press.

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He described the meeting as tense and recounted one moment when another teacher allegedly stood up, pointed a finger in his face and said, “You are a danger to the school or the community,” and then left the room. 

Another Glassbook teacher, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions from the school, confirmed that a teacher put a hand in Craven-Neeley’s face and called him a disgrace and threat to the school, the Chronicle reported. The teacher also said Craven-Neeley did not raise his voice even as others were arguing and talking loudly. 

“There was so much anger toward me,” Craven-Neeley said. “I was explaining my point of view. They were talking over me.”

He said a district administrator eventually asked him to leave the meeting. 

“I was shocked. This is my school. I didn’t do anything inappropriate,” he told the Chronicle. “I left. I was very shaky.”

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“We are not commenting on what happened during the faculty meeting,” Bazeley told Fox News Digital when asked if the district disputed Craven-Neeley’s account of what happened. 

After the meeting, Craven-Neeley said he received an email telling him not to report to school the next day and to attend a video conference with district officials. At the video meeting, he was informed he had been put on leave pending an investigation into the allegations of unprofessional conduct levied against him. 

He expressed concerns to the Chronicle that officials were “going to twist things to try to justify retaliation or trying to appease the staff or they’re tired of me being a whistleblower or all the above.”  

“I can say unequivocally that we do not place employees on leave for retaliatory purposes, nor have we ever attempted to limit any employee’s free speech rights,” Bazeley told Fox News Digital. “The leave was not in response to any of his contacts with news media.”

Fox News Digital’s Brie Stimson contributed to this report.


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