Purple for Parents of Indiana rescinded their endorsement of a Franklin school board candidate who publicly disagreed with the group’s stance on social emotional learning, or SEL.
The group announced the reversal of candidate Matt Cree’s endorsement in a Facebook post Tuesday. Cree is challenging incumbent Becky Nelson for the Union Township seat on the board.
“Unfortunately, after many discussions and clear oversight we are unable to agree on SEL with Matt Cree, Franklin Community School Board candidate, and are pulling our endorsement,” the post reads.
Purple for Parents’ platform calls for SEL to be eliminated from Indiana school curriculum. Indiana chapter president Rhonda Miller expressed disdain for it during a forum held in Whiteland a year ago, calling it an attempt to “rewire and brainwash children.” The group also claims, without evidence, that SEL is intertwined with a college-level theory on racism in society, known as Critical Race Theory, or CRT.
Following the publication of a Daily Journal story examining local candidate endorsements from Purple for Parents Indiana, Cree met with representatives from the group on Oct. 20, upon their request, to discuss what he had said in the article. They asked Cree to retract statements he made to the Daily Journal supporting SEL, he said.
He said he was then presented with “evidence” that he feels is not grounded in fact. It came in the form of old blog posts, expired web links and alleged Franklin Community Schools’ lesson plans that he said appear to be fake printout guidelines.
“They presented me with what they call evidence of SEL being manipulated to push Marxist and Communist agendas in schools. I asked if that agenda was being pushed in Franklin schools,” Cree said. “ … Whatever evidence they showed me, I reviewed it, and I felt it was circumstantial at best. I’m an attorney and I’m trained to evaluate cases based on facts and the evidence presented.”
Cree declined to retract his previous statements. If the group had presented solid evidence of SEL being harmful to students, he would advocate for its removal, Cree later said in a public Facebook post on Friday.
“I stand by my position that SEL, as currently implemented, is beneficial for our students,” he said in the post. “It provides tools needed to be good citizens and develop critical thinking skills.”
While there are some people who may choose not to vote for him based on Purple for Parents of Indiana pulling its endorsement, Cree said he doesn’t think it will have too much of an effect on his chances in the election.
“I’m sure there’s going to be a certain demographic who isn’t going to be too happy,” Cree said. “You can’t make everyone happy. That’s part of it and I understand that.”
Nelson also supports SEL and it is concept that is a required part of Indiana’s curriculum. In the Daily Journal’s candidate questionnaire, Nelson described SEL as this: “To me, social emotional learning means understanding your emotions and how to control them, understanding and communicating with others, building relationships, making responsible choices and showing empathy to others. It’s a collaboration between parents, family, schools and the community to teach life skills in order to cope with everyday challenges.”