A Black principal says his Texas school district suspended him without explanation as local parents melt down about critical race theory

Headshot shows Texas high school principal Dr. James Whitfield.
Dr. James Whitfield, the first Black principal of Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas, says residents have called for his firing because they believe he promotes the belief that white people are inherently racist. Courtesy of James Whitfield
  • A Black principal who local parents have targeted over critical race theory has been suspended, he told Insider.
  • James Whitfield said his school district put him on paid administrative leave without explanation.
  • Whitfield noted that not only does he not teach critical race theory, he doesn’t teach students at all.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A Black principal at a Texas high school has been placed on paid administrative leave without explanation, he told Insider, just weeks after parents called for his firing because they believe he promotes critical race theory.

James Whitfield made headlines over the summer after he revealed publicly that his school district had asked him to remove a photo showing him intimately embracing his wife, who is white, from social media. While the school district said in a statement that it made the request to provide Whitfield with a “smooth transition” to his new role and not because of race, Whitfield previously told Insider the controversy left him feeling “small, insignificant, and undervalued as a staff member.”

As Insider reported at the time, video footage also showed parents complaining at a board of trustees meeting about Whitfield’s “extreme views on race” and calling for him to be fired. One parent said Whitfield “promotes the conspiracy theory of systemic racism.”

Whitfield said in a phone interview Wednesday that the entire saga has left him confused and frustrated, and he can only speculate that his suspension is due to the July board of trustees meeting. He said no one from the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District has told him what he did wrong, or even when he can return from his suspension.

“The only reason I’ve been given is that they believe it’s in the best interest of the district,” Whitfield said. “What I do know is that [the board of trustees meeting] happened on July 26. On August 30, this past Monday, I was put on administrative leave.”

The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on Whitfield’s suspension.

Whitfield’s suspension came amid an uproar largely within right-wing media about critical race theory and whether it’s being taught in schools to young children. Critical race theory is an academic concept generally studied at the university level, and interrogates the ways racism has influenced – and continues to influence – institutions such as the criminal justice system.

But within the last year, the term “critical race theory” has been weaponized by some conservatives, who have used it as a catchall term to encompass progressive views on race relations and the entire concept of systemic racism.

Republican lawmakers in a number of states, including Texas, have even imposed laws banning critical race theory from being taught in public schools. The controversy has boiled over in a number of school board meetings across the country, as parents demand to know whether schools are teaching critical race theory to K-12 students.

Whitfield told Insider he remains baffled by the accusation that he promoted critical race theory in his school. He told Insider he doesn’t even teach students – let alone teach them critical race theory.

“I don’t promote in schools critical race theory. That is something that is studied at the doctoral level,” he said. “Like, I don’t go around having conversations with kids about, ‘Hey let’s talk about systemic racism, let’s talk about diversity and inclusion.’ That’s not what I do.”

He continued: “All I’m trying to do is love people and celebrate people and engage people, meet them where they’re at and support our kids and celebrate them.”