Walmart Pushed Public Schools in Arkansas To Hold Diversity Trainings

By Joanna Button

The controversy: On Monday, The Washington Free Beacon obtained documents showing that Walmart encouraged and funded diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training programs and critical race theory in public schools in Bentonville, Arkansas, (home to Walmart’s headquarters) and nearby Fayetteville. Walmart’s goal was to help people feel “welcomed, comfortable, and safe” living in Arkansas.

Creating a progressive classroom: In July 2020, Walmart arranged teacher training sessions with The Racial Equity Institute for the Bentonville school district. A month later, the district mandated the training, which covered topics like white supremacy and systemic racism. The Fayetteville district adopted a five-year “equity plan” that was designed by Walmart-funded progressive groups. One training session was called “the six tenets of critical race theory” and another encouraged teachers to implement CRT in the classroom.

Discouraging discipline: Walmart also funded Fayetteville’s “restorative justice” program, implemented because black and disabled students were being suspended at higher rates—which the district claimed was due to discrimination. Teachers were discouraged from disciplining students and say it made removing aggressive students from classrooms nearly impossible.

Circumventing parents: Bentonville tried to distance itself from the training, and Fayetteville tried to conceal the initiative—only releasing requested documents when a lawsuit forced them to. A fact sheet sent to parents in 2021 claimed critical race theory was not being taught in schools but failed to mention the Walmart-funded training on the subject.

What now? The Walmart Foundation has become increasingly progressive, funding diversity training programs for a multitude of organizations and schools. Back in 2020, the CEO pledged $100 million for “racial equity.” Though Walmart has long held influence in Arkansas, the people are pushing back. In January, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order to ban critical race theory in public schools.

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