CFER Foundation


Published January 18, 2022

Calming the waters in the San Dieguito Union High School District

A letter from Stuart H. Hurlbert, San Diego State University




AUTHOR'S NOTE: This letter concerning the politicization and racialization of schools in this district was initially widely distributed to, among others, the school district superintendent, the district's board of directors, the principals and assistant principals of all schools in the district, and to many others. The version here has been corrected for some typographical errors. It is supplemented by links to a few articles about and interviews of Dr. James-Ward from 2018 to the present, and a link to a San Diego County Office of Education press release documenting the degree to which the partisan Anti-Defamation League has penetrated our educational systems regionally and nationally.


January 7, 2022

Dr. Cheryl James-Ward, Superintendent of Schools

San Dieguito Union High School District

Dear Cheryl (If I may; we were disconnected colleagues at SDU for 11 years!),

A couple of generations ago my son attended schools (Earl Warren, Torrey Pines) in the SDUHSD and got a good enough education that he is now a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The last few years my attention, like that of many other citizens, has been drawn back to K-12 school systems as we've discovered how they, like most of our universities, have become damaged by identity politics and somewhat totalitarian control by senior administrators and powerful but ideologically narrow committees.

In that regard, during this past year I've followed controversies over critical race theory and its corollaries as they have been deceptively introduced into classrooms via the Anti-Defamation League's "No Place for Hate" (NPFH) programs, first in the Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) and now SDUHSD. Some SDUHSD parents want NPFH programs eliminated and a complete disassociation with ADL, as happened at CUSD some months ago. Others simply are calling for mechanisms by which students can opt out of NPFH activities.

Discussion of these issues at board meetings and/or faculty meetings often are fraught because most people, including parents, teachers and administrators, are poorly informed on key matters. When they are sufficiently well-informed on the nature ADL, I suspect most parents and teachers will favor a complete break with that organization.

Let me provide some information without further commentary via the five articles linked below. The first contains excerpts from 77 articles about ADL. The second, based on the first, argues for the CUSD making a complete break with ADL, and recounts events that brought this issue to the fore in Coronado. The third recounts the somewhat bumbling way that the CUSD board of trustees backed away from ADL. The fourth recounts how SDSU had plans to develop a formal alliance with ADL to deal with a claimed increase in antisemitism at SDSU, and then quietly backed off the deal when challenged with the information in the first of these articles. Finally, the fifth is about a brave grassroots attempt by some high school coaches in San Diego County to deal with racist remarks and other bad behavior, along with my suggestions and hopes for it growing in size and taking on larger roles.


Here then are the articles:


To reach a wide audience and stimulate discussion within the SDUHSD, I am copying this letter bcc (to avoid email blizzards!) to SDUHSD board members, principals and other administrators, a few teachers, lawyers, parent groups, and others. You might encourage the principals to pass it on to their respective staffs, teachers, and coaches. Or perhaps you yourself could put it out to all these groups as an "FYI" item, appending your comment or not as you wished.

The writing is on the wall that more and more school boards across the country are going to be disassociating themselves from the No Place For Hate program. It is simply inappropriate for public institutions to formally ally with highly politicized, partisan organizations like the ADL. No detailed investigation of what ADL is doing in different classes or schools is needed.

You have the skills and knowledge to get SDUHSD over this 'hump' faster and with less public trauma than it took in Coronado.

If you'd like to have an off-the-record chat on these matters I'd be happy to come over to your office some afternoon.


With all best wishes,

Stuart H. Hurlbert

Professor of Biology Emeritus, San Diego State University

Articles about Cheryl James-Ward and San Diego County Office of Education:


Wenyuan Wu

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