A black high school principal in Texas said he was told by a district official to remove an anniversary photo from Facebook of himself kissing his white wife — so as not to “stir up stuff” amid complaints from parents, according to reports.
Colleyville Heritage High School Principal James Whitfield opened up in a lengthy Facebook post on July 31 about the incident from 2019 shortly after he had been promoted to the top post at the middle school.
He told KXAS that he received an email at the time from a school administrator containing an image of himself and his wife, Kerrie, kissing on their anniversary trip.
The professionally shot photos, which were provided to People magazine by the Grapevine-Colleyville school district, show the couple in an intimate pose on a beach.
In his post Saturday, Whitfield explained that the photos were taken a decade ago during their 10-year anniversary in Mexico.
“I wish I had the conviction to say, ‘No, I’m not going to take it down — that’s a picture of me and my wife kissing on the beach. There’s no reason for me to take this photo down,’” he told KXAS.
“I look at the picture, and I look at the words above it, and it says, ‘Is this the Dr. Whitfield we want leading our schools?’ I showed it to my wife, who immediately begins to well up with tears,” said Whitfield, adding that he took it to mean that he was being criticized for being in an interracial relationship.
“They said, ‘Could you take it down? Can you take this picture down? Can you hide it?’ and I asked, ‘Why? What’s wrong with the picture?’ It was, ‘Hey, I am trying to avoid any conflict,’” he told the station.
Whitfield is now speaking out about the incident and responding to what he claims are “bigoted” and “racist” attacks, including accusations that he is a proponent of critical race theory.
He wrote on Facebook that he could not ask others to speak up if he won’t and “just because I am a school administrator that does not take away my rights and ability to be human and defend myself.”
“I am not the CRT (Critical Race Theory) Boogeyman. I am the first African American to assume the role of Principal at my current school in its 25-year history, and I am keenly aware of how much fear this strikes in the hearts of a small minority who would much rather things go back to the way they used to be,” he wrote.
Grapevine-Colleyville sources have said that the district does not teach CRT, a doctrine that pushes the notion that racism underpins America’s history, laws and institutions, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Whitfield wrote that the allegations were connected to a 2019 presentation he took part in as middle school principal on “Breaking the Barriers” that addressed people’s differences.
Even though it was approved by the district, the presentation was used to “vilify my colleagues and me,” he wrote.
“We hid the photo, no one from ‘above’ ever mentioned anything else about it, but the damage was inflicted on us in profound ways. It was at this moment that I knew the attack that we currently endure, was coming,” the principal wrote on Facebook.
The school district told KXAS in a statement: “When a social media concern is brought to the attention of the district, we have a responsibility to review it. Some of the photos the district received contained poses that are questionable for an educator, especially a principal or administrator.
“It had absolutely nothing to do with race. As a new campus principal, we wanted to provide a smooth transition for Dr. Whitfield to Heritage Middle School, which is why we advised him of the concern and made a request for the photos to be taken down from Facebook,” it added.
Some parents learned about the photo incident when they read Whitfield’s account on Facebook.
“I think it’s sweet. He’s a happily married man. It’s he and his beautiful wife, they have a beautiful family,” Sunni Roppollo, who has children at Colleyville Heritage High, told KXAS, adding that there was no reason to censor him.
“I chalk it up to educators are held to a different standard, unfortunately. I think it’s silly, I can’t see why a husband and wife can’t have a picture of them in a sweet moment,” she said.
Meanwhile, a petition in support of Whitfield has garnered hundreds of signatures, and he said he’s humbled for all the support he’s received.
“Twitter Fam, You’ve probably seen #IStandwithDrWhitfield coming across your timeline, wondering what on earth is going on. There’s SO much, but I am beyond humbled by the kindness, support, love, & encouragement being shown to me and my family,” he said in a tweet.
“Hate and #racism will not rule the day. Love will! Thank you for spreading love! Let your love shine so brightly & your positive voice be so loud that it drowns out the noise. We will not sit silently while these individuals continue their bigoted attacks. Kids need us!” the principal added.