EXCLUSIVE: Meet The Seattle Schools Woke Indoctrination Czar Who Married A Child Molester
This is truly horrifying on many levels.
Spend enough time studying the “racial equity” and “ethnic studies” programs sweeping school districts across the nation and you’ll find that they are following in the footsteps, on a several-year delay, of one of America’s most progressive cities: Seattle.
It’s worth examining, then, how all that worked out in Seattle. Despite decades of the most aggressive equity programs anyone could ask for, Seattle’s racial disparities are among the worst in the nation – and they’re getting worse, not better.
At the forefront of Seattle Public Schools’ (SPS) initiatives was Tracy Castro-Gill, until recently its director of ethnic studies, who represented herself as a fierce Chicana who overcame homelessness and was willing to take on racism no matter who she had to battle, turning schools into vehicles for social change.
Castro-Gill, it turned out, was a perennially unhappy toxic liar, one who misrepresented her background to the point that her own father compared her to Rachel Dolezal, and who was ultimately pushed out of her job for repeated misconduct. A focus on racial oppression did not create resiliency, but rather despondency, with Castro-Gill and three other racial justice leaders going on paid leave from SPS for mental health issues in 2019 alone.
As Castro-Gill used children for politics in the workplace, her personal life also raised questions about the costs that can incur. She married a convicted child molester and moved her young daughter in with him. Then, her previous ex-husband told me, she pressured her child, who had serious mental impairments, to become gender-nonbinary.
The academic achievement of Seattle’s youth plummeted as she implemented initiatives like replacing math instruction with courses on “power and oppression.” But in this world, there was no such thing as failing: Those gaps were used to justify still more jobs and efforts like hers. The following book excerpt is the never-before-told story of America’s first “woke” school system.
In June 1997, a 36-year-old child molester named Brian Gill was released from a Washington state prison after serving time for repeatedly abusing his eight-year-old cousin. Gill spent his days immersed in a computer game called Second Life, where players create idealized images of themselves and interact with others’ false personas. There, he met a woman named Tracy, who was fourteen years his junior. Tracy’s avatar became the “submissive” to Brian’s “dominant” in violence-tinged online sex games.
In real life, Tracy Hammond was a classic California housewife, a stay-at-home mother of three whose husband provided for her. She and her husband Ron, a handyman, had been high school sweethearts. One night at 3 a.m., Ron woke up and found her sitting in front of her computer, entranced by the game. “You’re the only man that ever earned my respect,” he watched her type to Brian. Soon after, Tracy told Ron she was going to Vegas for the weekend with a girlfriend. Then that friend called Ron looking for her. By Monday, Ron filed for divorce.
Tracy wanted to take their four-year-old daughter and move to Seattle to live with Brian. The judge overseeing the custody case barred the girl’s move and ordered that the minor have no contact with the sex offender. Tracy said she was going anyway; she would leave her only daughter behind.
In Seattle in 2013, Tracy received a master’s degree in education and became a substitute teacher. She increasingly inhabited a Second Life-style parallel universe. The Seattle area is one of the most progressive and wealthiest in America, but in Tracy’s version, “white supremacy” was omnipresent. The reason she was “so angry all of the time” was that “our students are dying from violence, because they are dismissed regularly in their classrooms.” She was tired, but “I think I figured out why. I am under attack. All women, but especially womxn of color, are under attack.”
She had a new name, a colorful world of villains, and an explanation for a lifetime of unhappiness. “My name is Tracy Castro-Gill,” she proclaimed. “I am Xicana, chingona, and pissed off.” In this world, she was the hero. Teachers gravitated toward her as she laid out an inspiring story.
“I’m angry, because when I was in high school, I wasn’t encouraged to succeed… it was all Shakespeare and Whiteness,” she said.
In this telling of her life story, Castro-Gill grew up in poverty and was homeless. Her father, she said, was a Hispanic who betrayed his identity by being what she called a “U.S. nationalist,” which made their home “intolerable.” To avoid “assimilation” and show that she was authentically Hispanic, her new history went, Castro-Gill joined a gang and began using drugs.
None of this was real, her father Rick Castro told me. He and his wife, Rita, had provided for Tracy a conventional, stable middle-class upbringing. Rick eventually earned a six-figure income, and Rita was a stay-at-home mom. Her school placed her in honors classes, but she withdrew.
“Everything since [Tracy] moved to Seattle has been one big lie,” Rick said. “It hurts to be the subject of a complete fabrication. . . . She never said a word about any of this racial stuff back then. . . . Her best friend was a bipolar schizophrenic. I don’t know if it rubbed off, or we missed something raising her.”
Rick, who is half Hispanic, said Tracy’s closest connection to Spanish-speaking culture may be her similarity to Don Quixote, the fictional warrior who attacked windmills believing he was doing battle with ferocious giants. “My mom was white . . . my dad was born here in Long Beach,” Rick said. “You’ve seen pictures of her, she’s basically white. How are they racist against you? She can’t speak Spanish. She’s got a last name of Gill. . . . Remember Rachel Dolezal, that lady a few years ago who pretended to be black? That’s exactly what this is,” he said, referring to a white woman who became an NAACP official while identifying as black, also in Washington State.
Like Dolezal, Castro-Gill turned her new persona into a job—and in Castro-Gill’s case, a position of genuine influence. Seattle’s school system named her to a district-wide position called Ethnic Studies Program Manager, paying her $93,000 a year to convey to children the pervasiveness of racism. She described herself as a “radical atheist and consider myself a far-left anarchist.”
Her racialized version of education mirrored her self-proclaimed history of joining a gang and using drugs to avoid “assimilation.” Under her leadership, the Seattle school system — located in an area with two of America’s largest high-tech companies, Amazon and Microsoft — decided to partially replace the math curriculum of every grade with “math ethnic studies.” To pass, students must explain how math is “used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color.” They must “explain how math dictates economic oppression,” and answer “Why/how does [sic] data-driven processes prevent liberation?”
She was contending that using variables in algorithms was not for minorities, while enormous companies just miles away paid legions of computer programmers six-figure salaries to do just that. Then she was cultivating their despair over the racial income gap.
In spring 2018, the math ethnic studies program was piloted in six schools. The school board had approved the pilot program to decrease the achievement gap, writing “1. We affirm our belief that the integration and addition of ethnic studies into the education of Seattle Public Schools’ students can have a positive impact on eliminating opportunity gaps. 2. We direct that the Superintendent incorporate ethnic studies . . . as a high-leverage gap eliminating strategy.”
On the next state math exam, the performance of black students at those schools plummeted. At one pilot school, John Muir Elementary, black achievement had been rising steadily every year, but all those gains and more were wiped out, with the black passing rate dropping from 28% to under 18% the next school year. At another pilot school, 69% white and with only seven black students, the white students’ pass rates also plunged, from 60% to 36%.
Confronted with these results, Castro-Gill replied that she never had any intention of narrowing the achievement gap. Gaps, she believed, are a good thing, because they ensure that we focus on race. “Closing ‘Achievement/Opportunity’ gaps is a Western way of thinking about education,” she said. “We should never ‘close’ that gap because it provides space for reflection and growth.” It also justified jobs like hers.
Despite the failure of the pilot, the district said it would “prioritize ethnic studies . . . [and] help integrate ethnic studies into all curriculum, content areas, and grade levels.” An option to skip a requirement to take Algebra II, a staple for those planning to go to college, and replace it with a course covering “power & oppression,” became enormously popular.
In 2014, when her daughter was nine, Castro-Gill went back to court to seek custody and won. She moved her daughter in with her and Brian, the convicted child molester, at his 750-square-foot house. She enrolled the daughter in the Seattle schools. By seventh grade, she was pushing literature about transgenderism on her daughter, who had been diagnosed to have a “serious emotional disturbance” and “extremely low” social skills. Her daughter decided she was “nonbinary” and, according to Castro-Gill, began dating a transgender person.
Ron, the ex-husband, said Castro-Gill became “obsessed” with their child’s sexuality, seemingly in order to cultivate the currency of victimhood status. “Her daughter is white with blue eyes, so what are you gonna say? ‘She’s not black or Mexican, but she’s gay!’” he said. Ron told his daughter her identity did not come from a category. “I don’t care what you are, I love you with all my heart, as long as you’re happy. I’ve said don’t live your life to please me, or your mother . . . just be you and be happy. There’s nothing wrong with just being you.”
Rick, Castro-Gill’s father, said his sister is gay and he gladly accepts it, but “my granddaughter is not transgender, it’s wishful thinking on the part of Tracy.”
Castro-Gill had alienated much of her family with her determination to find negativity everywhere and her loose connection with the truth. She steamrolled over anyone in her way. When her older son had a child of his own, Castro-Gill interrupted a game of cops-and-robbers to accuse the five-year-old of wanting to kill her because she’s a poor Latina woman, Ron said. Castro-Gill’s son asked her to leave. “Those that are trying to inject poison, your best bet is to distance yourself from them,” Ron said.
But one group of people could neither distance from her nor question her beliefs: The 54,000 children of the Seattle public schools, where Castro-Gill held a high-level central office position. She made no bones about what that meant for those children. She posed for a picture with someone wearing a shirt that said, “Marxist Ringleader,” adding on social media: “Next step is matching ‘INDOCTRINATED’ t-shirts!”
The state named her Regional Teacher of the Year for 2018–19.
The rise of Castro-Gill and of ethnic studies in the Seattle schools is in part because a large part of what students learned in ethnic studies was how to demand more ethnic studies. Castro-Gill’s underage acolytes packed school board meetings and pressed officials to “mandate ethnic studies, Pre-K to 12th, and fully-staff [sic] ethnic studies departments” and “mandate thorough and frequent staff racial equity trainings.”
While she was employed by the school system, Castro-Gill also led an activist group called Washington Ethnic Studies Now, which attempts to change school policies. A handful of Seattle students associated with this organization created the NAACP Youth Coalition, and school board members encouraged them to show up at school board meetings to advocate. Yet the teenagers did not actually seem to believe they faced racism dire enough to take time out of their days to engage in activism, and club membership declined. “If you are facing multiple, interlocking systems of oppression, who has the time or ability to keep showing up to pressure school board directors?” one reasoned.
The group’s fortunes improved after government money was used to pay them to lobby the government. Rita Green, an NAACP official who nominated Castro-Gill as teacher of the year, applied for a “Best Starts for Kids” grant from King County, which was used to “pay the youth for their antiracism efforts. . . . No longer do adult coordinators have to ask students to volunteer their time to make change.” The local NAACP received an $877,000 grant to “improve school culture and climate for all students. In partnership with Seattle Council PTSA, and Seattle Public Schools District.” The tiny group of compensated activists could pack a meeting, allowing board members to say they were just being responsive to popular demand.
Castro-Gill’s tactic of expanding ethnic studies programs in this way was helped by another tactic: Bullying. In her old life, she might have seen this as a personality flaw to overcome, but her new persona was full of righteous indignation that justified any form of aggression or scheming. As a sympathetic journalist described it, “she admits to having little time to dither or speak ‘Seattle polite’ to people who either didn’t understand or recognize the issue: Children of Color had been drowning in educational ‘whiteness’ for centuries and even learning to swim meant assimilating, meant subverting their identities. If you were too daft to understand the curricular overhaul necessary to stem this chronic tide of whiteness, after having a little fun at your expense, Castro-Gill was ready to get back to work.”
The advocates simply built a footing within the bureaucracy, then began treating everyone else — parents, taxpayers, even colleagues — as the enemy. When the media began asking about the curriculum, Castro-Gill’s bosses asked her to give interviews. It was a chance to bring her important message to a mass audience. She resisted, saying that public backlash to the framework amounted to “emotional, racialized trauma.”