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Professor fired for critical race theory criticism: lawsuit


David Phillips alleged free speech violations by North Carolina educational officials

A university educator filed a state lawsuit against North Carolina educational officials for firing him over his seminars on viewpoint diversity and free speech.

David Phillips taught at the Governor’s School of North Carolina from summer 2013 to summer 2021, except when the classes were canceled due to COVID lockdowns in 2020. The elite summer seminar program is open to the best high school students in the state, according to its website.

Phillips taught part-time at the summer program hosted on the campus of Winston Salem State University and teaches college courses in North Carolina. He teaches English as Wake Technical Community College.

Phillips (pictured) alleged in his lawsuit that the program increasingly embraced critical race theory and other leftist ideology. Faculty members have wide latitude on what they want to teach – but according to the lawsuit, that does not extend to anything resembling a right-of-center viewpoint.

Alliance Defending Freedom, the English professor’s legal representation, explained in a news release:

For years, Phillips spoke out against the school’s increasing adoption of critical theory, an ideology that views everyone and everything through the lens of characteristics like race, sex, and religion, labeling people as perpetual oppressors or victims based on group membership alone. After Phillips delivered three optional seminars in June 2021 critiquing critical theory and the increasing bias and lack of viewpoint diversity in higher education, North Carolina public school officials fired him mid-session without any explanation.

ADF further explained:

Over his eight years teaching at the Governor’s School, Phillips has encouraged his students to think for themselves and has notified the administration of the hostility that he and other students with “privileged” characteristics experienced. Phillips’ three optional seminars, which were similar to others he’d delivered in previous years and open to any student or staff member to attend if they so desired, discussed (1) a social psychology critique of some concepts from critical theory; (2) understanding speech through the lens of speech-act theory; and (3) the increasing ideological bias and lack of viewpoint diversity in higher education.

ADF Attorney Hal Frampton said education officials forced his client out for “offering a reasoned critique of critical theory.”

“By firing him, the Governor’s School violated his constitutional right to free speech and unlawfully retaliated against him for deviating from the Governor’s School’s ideological orthodoxy,” Frampton alleged.

The Department of Instruction told a local news station it believed it followed the law but would not comment further due to it being a personnel matter.

“The Department of Public Instruction maintains that it fully complied with all legal requirements,” the agency told CBS 17. “However, as this is a personnel matter, no additional information can be shared at this [time].”

Editor’s note: The article has been updated to clarify Phillips’ role.

MORE: UIdaho must pay $90K to settle free speech lawsuit

IMAGE: David Phillips/LinkedIn

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.