The father of a Brentwood School student is suing the institution and its leader, alleging that after the 2020 death of George Floyd, education there went in a wrong direction as racially divisive books became favored over the works of literary giants and the climate turned hostile to Jewish people.
Jerome Eisenberg’s Santa Monica Superior Court lawsuit against the private, K-12 coed learning institution and Head of School Michael Riera alleges civil rights violations, breach of contract and both intentional and negative infliction of emotional distress. The suit brought Wednesday seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
According to the suit, the school’s new ideology became one that viewed all relationships “through a conflict theory lens of racial hierarchy” in which Jewish people are treated as oppressors due to their “proximity to whiteness,” while the actual treatment of Jews worldwide throughout history is ignored.
When Eisenberg asked Riera why such radical changes in the curriculum were being implemented without notice or parental consent or advice, Riera said that the school was comprised of educators who knew what the students needed to learn and that the parents’ ideas were outdated, according to the suit.
Riera also said with the coming of a “new world order,” it was important to “capture the students at this juncture” or the opportunity may be lost later.
A Brentwood School representative issued a statement regarding the suit.
“The allegations contained in the complaint are baseless, a work of whole fiction and nothing more than a desperate attempt to embarrass the school,” the statement read. “The plaintiff’s arguments are unsupported by actual facts and we look forward to proving that in court.”
Eisenberg enrolled his daughter, identified in the complaint only as J.E., in the Brentwood School believing she would receive a traditional education that reflected the Western values with which she was raised at home, the suit states. But parents like Eisenberg “eventually discovered defendants’ scheme to transform the school under a racially divisive, anti-Semitic ideology that seeks to indoctrinate children to reject Western values,” according to the suit.
When Eisenberg complained about the school’s alleged discriminatory practices, Riera — described in one media report as the “Dr. Spock for teenagers and their parents” — threatened to kick J.E. out of the school immediately unless her father “kept his mouth shut,” the suit alleges.
Riera intentionally prevented Eisenberg and the other Jewish parents from forming an affinity group because he did not want Jewish members of the community to have any say in the new policies Riera and Brentwood were forming, Eisenberg alleges.
During J.E’s first year at Brentwood School in the seventh grade, the school, with its nearly nearly $50,000 annual tuition, delivered on its promise of a non-discriminatory, traditional secular curriculum, but everything “radically changed” after the May 2020 death of George Floyd, according to the suit. That summer, Brentwood School relinquished control of its curriculum and community policies to its Office of Equity and Inclusion, a relatively new administrative arm in which all of existence is reviewed through a racial lens, the suit states.
The school’s focus shifted away from giving students a classically liberal education and towards a forced re-education that rejects enlightenment values in favor of an identity-based ideology of grievance, resentment and racial divisiveness, the suit states.
In J.E.’s eighth grade literature class, universally renowned classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Lord of the Flies” were “jettisoned” and replaced with such works as Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” which gave students a historical, racially inflammatory perspective on U.S. history “with no legitimate pedagogical purpose,” according to the suit.
The English Department staff told parents that if they wanted their children to read Shakespeare or Hemingway, they should do it “in their own free time,” the suit states.
Students were forced to study charts on “becoming anti-racist” that made bigoted assumptions about them and required them to engage in political activism based on those assumptions, according to the suit.
Although J.E. was allowed to finish the eighth grade at Brentwood School, Riera revoked the school’s offer to return for ninth grade, the suit states. Her father believes Riera’s decision was tied to his complaints about the school’s allegedly discriminatory policies, the suit states.
“As a result, J.E. was deprived of attending school with the friends she loved and the community she knew,” the suit states.