Whitfield had been the subject of local controversy for his alleged embrace of “critical race theory” and photos with his wife that the educator posted to Facebook.
But Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) officials denied that his departure had anything to do with those issues, calling Whitfield’s ouster a “personnel matter.”
According to local reports, Whitfield will remain on paid leave until his contract expires in August 2023.
Dr. James Whitfield Accused of Teaching ‘Critical Race Theory’
Whitfield, who became principal at Colleyville Heritage High School ahead of the 2020-2021 school year, was thrust into the local political spotlight in July, when Stetson Clark, a hedge fund manager and failed school board candidate, accused the principal of promoting “critical race theory.”
“Critical race theory” is not a well-defined term, but is used to refer to classroom curricula that emphasizes the role of racism in American history.
In Texas, “critical race theory” is an ongoing political concern. This year, the state legislature passed a law aimed at combating “critical race theory” in public schools, and one lawmaker recently launched an investigation into classroom libraries to the same end.
On July 26, Stetson Clark said in a GCISD school board meeting that Whitfield promoted the “theory” as principal at Colleyville Heritage High.
In a letter sent to students and parents, Clark said Whitfield “promotes the conspiracy theory of systemic racism […] He is encouraging the disruption and destruction of our districts.”
Clark called for Whitfield’s firing at the meeting.
Whitfield defended himself in a Facebook post that week, and claimed that he had been the subject of local political reprisals after he made comments supportive of the George Floyd protests last year.
Facebook Photos at Center of Controversy
Whitfield had previously come under fire in 2019, when GCISD officials reportedly asked him to remove vacation photos with his wife from his public Facebook account.
“As I read the forwarded email it said, ‘Is this the Dr. Whitfield we want as an example for our students?’ And the picture attached was a picture of my wife and I kissing on the beach in Mexico during a trip we took for our 10-year anniversary. I showed my wife and I could tell she was already getting upset — tears were welling up, but I was still awaiting the callback,” the embattled principal said.
Whitfield — who is black, and whose wife is white — said district officials asked him to take down the photos because they didn’t want “people to stir stuff up.”
Students, Community Rally Around Whitfield
According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, students and members of the community rallied around their embattled principal as the controversy unfolded.
The paper reported that a petition demanding Whitfield remain at Colleyville Heritage garnered more than 1,500 signatures.
Dozens of students reportedly demonstrated outside of the GCISD building just a week before he was fired, and the hashtag “#IStandWithDrWhitfield” has trended locally in the months since Clark called for his removal.
Dr. James Whitfield does not appear to have addressed his departure on social media since the Monday announcement, though he has been active.
Prior to being named principal at Colleyville Heritage, Whitfield was reportedly a world geography teacher at Richland High School, which is not in the Grapevine-Colleyville district.