A group of angry, anti-CRT parents drove Cecelia Lewis out from her job in Cherokee County, Georgia under the false impression she was coming to the school district to teach CRT. Then, they brought their complaints to her next job in another county. Lewis was reluctant to share her story a year later, but finally shared explained it all in a detailed interview with ProPublica.
Lewis, a former Maryland educator, applied for the newly opened DEI position in the Cherokee County School District. She was announced as a new hire in March 2021 by superintendent Brian Hightower. However, a group of parents convinced themselves Lewis’ position was related to teaching critical race theory and began scheming to push her out.
Lewis told ProPublica by May, hundreds of letters were being sent to her former employer and the Cherokee County’s schools communications chief demanding she be terminated. She hadn’t even moved to Georgia yet. Then, the same group of parents rallied at the next school board meeting to raise their concerns. Lewis watched the meeting online.
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Hightower, the superintendent, read from a statement: “While I had initially entertained and publicly spoken to the development of a diversity, equity and inclusivity, DEI plan, I recognize that our intentions have become widely misunderstood in the community and it created division. “To that end, I have concluded that there will be no separate DEI plan.”
To Lewis, it was as if the “foundations of everything that I was asked to do have just shifted, and I was not a part of the conversation.”
The end of that meeting nearly ended in an anti-CRT riot. Lewis told ProPublica she was asked to consider another position by an administrator but she declined. The district’s human resources director kindly forwarded her resume to Cobb County School District, where she was offered a job to be a supervisor of social studies. That summer, her and her husband moved down to Georgia.
On the back end, the Cherokee County parents used their private Facebook page to stalk Lewis, report where she’s been and follow where she’s going next, ProPublica found. Lewis said a Cobb County school district leader met with her one evening to warn her the complaints from Cherokee were circling back to her.
The person explained that complaints about her were “percolating” out of Cherokee into Cobb, according to Lewis, who also remembered the person telling her to be careful; she’s an at-will employee (meaning she can be fired at any time for any reason without notice) and the person might not be able to help her. Lewis also recalled the person telling her that she shouldn’t have to endure in Cobb what she went through in Cherokee.
Lewis was stunned. “I did nothing but showed up to work, signed a contract, agreed to do what I was asked to do in the job description,” she told ProPublica. “And yet again, I’m getting attacked.”
Lewis’ introduction to the department was supposed to be a formal introduction but instead she said she was told to sit in the back and flip the presentation slides. During her few months working, her communications were monitored and she was given busy work that didn’t really pertain to her job role, she told ProPublica. Plus, a few Republican school board members began filing complaints against her, calling for her termination.
By August, she decided to resign.
ProPublica reported at least 14 public school employees, six Black were chased out their schools by anti-CRT rage. However, Lewis moved back to Maryland and got herself another job in education, not letting this experience intimate her.
“I may not have the specific acronym tied to my official title, but I am committed to celebrating diversity and promoting equity and inclusion,” Lewis said to ProPublica.