To the editor: As principals in Guilford County Schools, we are stunned and saddened by the recent vitriol aimed at our superintendent and frustrated by the manufactured crisis that has been created around critical race theory here and nationally.

Education is about opening minds, not closing them. Great teachers don’t indoctrinate students, but they do inspire them to ask more questions, research issues more deeply, disagree respectfully and engage in civil debate. Great teachers also help and encourage students as they explore their interests, gain new knowledge and apply new skills. They look at the cold, hard truth of history and don’t blink.

As renowned educator, poet laureate and Wake Forest University Professor Maya Angelou once said, “When we know better, we do better.”

As our top educator, Dr. Sharon Contreras exemplifies each of these traits and more. She continually challenges us to do more, give more and focus more, reminding us that the quality of education our children now receive will determine the trajectory of their lives, and their families’ lives for generations to come.

She deserves our respect, our support and our gratitude, as do our school board and our staff members who have served on the front lines of our community’s pandemic response. It has not escaped our notice that many of the most vile, hateful and completely inaccurate messages and social media stories are targeting our district’s first Black female and Latina superintendent.

Hate, bias and bigotry in all their forms have no place in our public schools, which welcome and include all students from our beautifully diverse community. Racism and misogyny should have no purpose, either. While GCS does not teach critical race theory, we support our university and law school colleagues in their pursuit of inquiry unencumbered by partisan politics and the dog whistles of outrage.

As we work with staff this summer to accelerate learning for the many students who lost ground during the pandemic, our greatest fear isn’t the impact of COVID-19, as severe as it is. Our greatest concern is that these attacks belie a well-orchestrated national campaign designed to make some topics too toxic to teach.

Stifling inquiry stifles learning itself, and that’s a threshold that we – as a community – dare not cross if we truly want to produce the educated citizenry our great democracy depends upon.

Note: This letter was signed by 104 principals.