RALEIGH, N.C. (CITC) — A North Carolina professor claims he was terminated from a prestigious high school program for criticizing ideologies adopted by the school system.
Dr. David Phillips taught English at the Governor's School of North Carolina (NCGS) for eight years. NCGS, a publicly funded residential summer program, is home to more than 600 "academically gifted" high school students. Students must be nominated by their local high schools each year, and a state committee has the final say on who is selected.
A lawsuit filed Friday by legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) states Phillips spoke out against NCGS's embracement of a "racially divisive ideology." Philip argues NCGS adopted critical theory, a social approach that views individuals "through the lens of characteristics like race, sex and religion" and labels individuals as "perpetual oppressors or victims basked on group membership alone."
Phillips led three optional seminars last summer where he openly criticized both the use of critical theory and perceived bias and lack of viewpoint diversity in higher education. The seminars were open to both students and staff, and Phillips claims he was met with "open hostility" afterwards.
"At the conclusion of each lecture, members of the audience -- including staff members -- reacted with open hostility to the ideas and viewpoints discussed," the lawsuit reads. "And they attacked whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality and Christianity -- none of which should have been relevant -- in their comments and questions."
Phillips alleges that, following his third seminar, state public school officials fired him with no explanation. He later learned that NCGS staff members had complained about the content of the seminars, but he says no investigation was conducted, nor was he asked to address any of the concerns.
ADF calls the termination a violation of free speech, as well as an unlawful retaliation for "deviating" from NCGS's "ideological orthodoxy."
"In an academic environment committed to exploring a wide range of differing viewpoints, as the Governor's School claims to be, no teacher should be fired for offering a reasoned critique of critical theory," ADF Senior Counsel Hal Frampton said. "There is no lawful explanation for the way North Carolina public school officials treated Dr. Phillips. He was beloved, respected and regarded by both students and faculty as an advocate for students who felt that their voices weren't being heard and their perspectives weren't welcomed at the Governor's School."
"Mr. Phillips was an employee of Governor’s School during summer 2021. The Department of Public Instruction maintains that it fully complied with all legal requirements," the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) told The National Desk (TND). "However, as this is a personnel matter, no additional information can be shared at this time."