The superintendent of the school district Geoff Diehl’s daughter attends said the Republican gubernatorial candidate was wrong to claim that his child was forced to sign a pledge to acknowledge her white privilege.
On Monday, Diehl told reporters that his daughter, a sophomore at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, was required to sign such a pledge, citing it as an example of how schools in the state are being emboldened to teach children lessons their parents might find “inappropriate.”
Whitman-Hanson Regional School District Superintendent Jeff Szymaniak told the Globe Thursday that no such pledge exists.
“I did speak with Mr. Diehl,” he said in an e-mail. “No student in the Whitman-Hanson Regional School District is required, or is even asked, to take any sort of pledge involving white privilege.”
Szymaniak explained that Diehl’s concern was over a pledge student athletes were expected to sign to participate in MIAA sponsored athletics. Diehl’s daughter, a student athlete, signed the pledge, which is an eight-point list of rules regarding discriminatory practices.
She also took a one-hour implicit bias training created by the National Federation of State High Schools and required of all student athletes, Szymaniak said.
Diehl’s daughter also signed a “No Place for Hate” banner, which students could sign voluntarily.
Diehl made his claim Monday upon reflecting on the Massachusetts GOP convention in Springfield Saturday. He said that, while he frowned on some of the vulgar language used by candidates endorsed by his party, he agreed with claims that children were being “indoctrinated” in schools.
When asked for an example, he told reporters about the white privilege pledge his daughter was allegedly made to sign.
Diehl said the school was “trying to tell my daughter she has racist problems.”
“My wife and I have done our best to try and get racism out of our household,” he told reporters.
On Thursday, Diehl told the Globe in a statement that “as a prerequisite for participating in high school sports, my daughter was required to sign a form acknowledging that she took a course to help her manage the influence implicit bias as to race, ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexuality has on her real-world behavior.”
“It’s the nineteenth clause in a multi-page permission slip to participate in school sports in town. In the preceding clause, she was also required to sign a pledge whereby she promised to hold her community responsible for the use of exhibition of any discriminatory practices,” Diehl said in a statement. “In this case, the MIAA and the public schools are coordinating to require this of athletes in our public schools. Certainly, the public schools are aware and supporting this, because they allow the MIAA to use the schools’ athletic programs to carry this out.”
Diehl said “the argument is not whether bias or discrimination is acceptable. No such argument reasonably can be had because hatred and discrimination are never acceptable.”
“My wife and I have always tried hard to teach our girls that important lesson and to focus on the content of one’s character beyond all else, and we expect our kids to model that behavior in all they do,” he said. “But, we also expect our public schools to be a sanctuary free from the inculcation of political agenda. I find it exceptionally offensive that high school students are being told they are intrinsically guilty of racism and bias within their soul, and to thereby imply that they lack innate ability to independently see beyond bias in the conduct of their actions, as a precondition of participating in a school activity that itself should be seen as a great equalizer.”
Diehl, a former Whitman state lawmaker who’s trumpeted Trump’s false claims the 2020 election was rigged, received 71 percent of the 1,194 votes cast by party delegates at the convention, winning the party’s backing for governor.
Diehl, who unsuccessfully challenged Senator Elizabeth Warren for her seat in 2018, will face Chris Doughty, a Wrentham business owner, in the Republican primary Sept. 6.