Report: Illinois School Employs 'Bias Response System' to Allow Staff Members to Snitch on Each Other

AP Photo/Ron Harris

Parents Defending Education (PDE) released a report earlier this month detailing problematic elements of the Illinois Math and Science Academy’s (IMSA) bias response system. The program mandates staff participation in coaching sessions on gender, race, sexuality, pronoun usage, and other facets of progressive ideology.


The response system is an internal mechanism ostensibly aimed at addressing incidents involving bias against students and staff members based on certain characteristics. PDE obtained emails and other documentation through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request give an inside look into Illinois Math and Science Academy’s (IMSA) bias incident reporting system. The documents show how staff use the system themselves to solve professional and personal conflict with fellow staff members. The emails also reveal that despite teachers being found not guilty of any bias incidents, they are still subjected to consequences often due to not being “inclusive” enough.

IMSA defines a bias incident as “incidents of bias and hate affecting a person or group create a hostile climate and negatively impact the quality of the IMSA experience for community members.” Reports are accepted “anonymously or confidentially” and students can report biases related to “race,” “color,” “gender,” “sex,” “Disruption to the Community (Offensive Comment or slur, Name Calling, Offensive Visual Representation,” and “microaggressions.”

IMSA’s bias incident reporting system, similar to those used in other educational institutions, is supposedly aimed at fostering an inclusive and diverse environment by giving students and members of staff a way to address issues pertaining to various aspects of people’s identities.

PDE’s report highlighted the case of Adrienne Coleman, the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the school. She submitted a report in October 2022 explaining that she faced challenges at the school for over 16 years because she is a Black woman. “It is sometimes difficult to be a Black person at IMSA,” she wrote.


In her report, she listed a series of offenses and “microaggressions” she has endured during her tenure at the school. These included:

Being asked why Black and Latino students do not engage in SIR. Is it because they’re lazy and don’t want to get up early on Wednesday mornings?

Being called a Black c**k, as depicted in an image given to me.

Being asked how is it that you became faculty, because of affirmative action.

Being told that I must disband a group of Black and Latino staff who were working to assist Black and Latino students because we were being “exclusive”. This was after the group had permission to meet from the President.

Having the PROMISE program not supported financially or with human capitol.

Being referred to as incompetent, along with Black and Latino leadership in engagement surveys and program evaluations.

There is a type of bias referred to as competency-proving, when People of Color constantly have to provide evidence of their competence to combat stereotypical views and perspectives.

Coleman also complained that she was told “that someone said they were tired of me throwing my Blackness in their face.”

The process for handling these reports involves a thorough review by the Associate Director of Student Affairs or the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to determine the best response, which typically involves mandatory training and reflection sessions. In one instance, Coleman informed a teacher who had received an incident bias report against them that while she did not find bias, the teacher still showed a “lack of inclusion” and was required to learn how to improve their inclusive teaching practices.


In essence, IMSA’s bias incident reporting system appears to be little more than a snitching hotline that students and staff members can weaponize against one another. Even for those who make an honest mistake, the program could subject them to a level of scrutiny that is not warranted.

Nobody wants to see people treated unfairly or discriminated against because of their race, gender, or sexuality. But bias reporting systems are heavy-handed methods of addressing this problem. At best, it is a well-intentioned, but deeply flawed, effort to foster an environment that promotes inclusion. At worst, it is an enforcement mechanism meant to compel IMSA’s students and staff to adhere to a political and cultural identity that might not be in line with people’s values.


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