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Rural North Dakota superintendent sends anti-'woke' tirade to school administrators across the state

Starkweather Public School District Superintendent Larry Volk wrote in an email to a mailing list run by the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders that critical race theory is “bigotry cloaked in academic theory" and noted it "will never have a place in our school district." He added that it's "time to move away from godless corrupt woke, left-wing ideology and back to the devout Christ centered Republic the founders envisioned.”

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BISMARCK — The superintendent of a rural North Dakota school district sent a controversial email to school administrators across the state this week in which he slammed critical race theory, compared Democrats to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and advocated for teaching students about the nation's "Christian heritage."

Starkweather Public School District Superintendent Larry Volk wrote in an email to a large mailing list run by the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders that critical race theory is “bigotry cloaked in academic theory" and noted it "will never have a place in our school district." He added that it's "time to move away from godless corrupt woke, left-wing ideology and back to the devout Christ centered Republic the founders envisioned.”

Volk's district in Starkweather, located about 25 miles north of Devils Lake, includes an elementary and high school that had 63 students last year, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

The superintendent said in the email obtained by Forum News Service he was upset that a speaker at the council's summer conference is a proponent of critical race theory. Aimee Copas, the council's director, said the email Volk sent to the mailing list is a duplicate of an email he sent to only her in June prior to a conference put on by the council. Copas noted that Volk was "very incorrect" and critical race theory was not a topic of conversation at the conference.

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Critical race theory, part of an intellectual movement that began more than 40 years ago, posits that racism is still ingrained in America’s institutions and the consequences of slavery and historic discrimination continue to affect people of color.

No evidence has emerged to suggest the theory is taught in North Dakota schools, but state lawmakers banned the teaching of the theory in public schools during a special session last month. Supporters of banning the theory said it was necessary as a preemptive measure, while opponents argued the move was a solution to a nonexistent problem.

Volk email by Jeremy Turley on Scribd

Volk wrote that “there is no systemic racism in America created by the Founding Fathers - the racism is the project of the godless Democrat party that has rejected god, family, and America and embraced secularism in the form of Marxism.”

The superintendent further contended that Democrats were responsible for more than a dozen widely condemned historical events, institutions and policies, including the enslavement of Black people and Jim Crow laws. He also compared pro-abortion rights Democrats to Hitler and said the Ku Klux Klan has now been “replaced by the modern military wing of the Democrat party – Antifa and Black Lives Matters."

When contacted by Forum News Service, Volk said he mistakenly sent the email to the council's mailing list, which includes about 700 administrators, instead of just one person. He then ended the call before Forum News Service could ask any more questions about the email.

Copas did not directly comment on the content of Volk's email, but she noted it has never been the intention of the organization for its listserv "to be an avenue for personal political discussions." She added that the mailing list is supposed to be a way for educators to share best practices and become better leaders.

Starkweather School Board President Chris Berg said he hadn't read the email but supports the superintendent.

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"I know Mr. Volk very well and know exactly what his views are," Berg said in an email. "I completely back his views 100% and we agree completely on that. We are very tired of the woke leftists pushing their garbage on the school systems and the United States as a whole."

State Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, said Volk's email was " completely unprofessional and wholly inappropriate," adding that it's not a superintendent's job to peddle partisan rhetoric. The former math teacher who recently spoke out against engaging in "culture wars" by banning critical race theory said the kind of extreme rhetoric used by Volk is "so distracting from the things that are actually happening in classrooms and school buildings."

"I'm really disappointed to see this from any school leader," Oban said. "I wouldn't expect this or want this for anybody, and that has nothing to do with the partisanship of this specific person."

State Rep. Dave Monson, R-Osnabrock, called Volk's email "historically very accurate" and said the claims made by the superintendent are verifiable in history books that very printed before the "woke" movement. The former school administrator and science teacher said he probably would not have written the email to his colleagues if he were a working superintendent because "school administrators need to walk a kind of narrow path with political issues," but he commended Volk for having "the strength of conviction to tell it like it is."

"He is absolutely correct, if not politically correct, and certainly within his First Amendment rights to say what he did," Monson said in an email.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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