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Brentwood School Sued Over 'Woke' Curriculum
A suit filed against the former home to Rick Caruso's kids and many in the entertainment industry claims the 'anti-racist' curriculum excludes Jews
The Brentwood School — an institution near and dear to many who work in the entertainment industry — has been thrust into America’s culture wars. A parent of a former Brentwood student is suing the school and its headmaster, Michael Riera, for inflicting emotional distress and violating his child’s civil rights after the elite private school revamped its curriculum in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and murder of George Floyd.
In a suit filed on June 8 in Los Angeles Superior Court, retired lawyer Jerome Eisenberg accuses Brentwood of breaching its covenant by “explicitly racializing its policies” without the consent or knowledge of the school’s parents. Eisenberg goes on to allege that parents of Brentwood’s Jewish students were intentionally frozen out of the curriculum discussions which is tantamount to antisemitism, the suit says. A lawyer with the same name as Jerome Eisenberg was indicted in 1993 for escrow fraud in Los Angeles County. Eisenberg’s attorney did not immediately return calls and emails for comment.
Eisenberg is represented by David Pivtorak, who, based on his Twitter profile, specializes in such cases.
A spokesperson for Brentwood School tells The Ankler, “The allegations contained in the complaint are baseless, a work of whole fiction and nothing more than a desperate attempt to embarrass the school. The plaintiff’s arguments are unsupported by actual facts and we look forward to proving that in court.”
If you work in the entertainment industry you more than likely know someone who attended Brentwood as it ranks right up there with other private institutions like Harvard-Westlake and Crossroads as a main feeder for the industry. Producer Ryan Kavanaugh went there as did Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. Real estate mogul and mayoral candidate Rick Caruso sent his kids there (and became inflamed in an infamous racial yacht incident) while the actress Calista Flockhart once sat on the school’s board. Located on Barrington and Sunset and founded in 1972, Brentwood runs from kindergarten through 12th grade with tuition costing up to $48,000.
READ THE LAWSUIT
Fights over shifting curriculums that focus more on race and illuminating America’s troubled history are playing out across the country, including at elite institutions. Last year, the father of a student at an elite all-girls school, Brearly, in Manhattan made national news when he pulled his daughter out after the school made anti-racist training mandatory for parents. The father, Andrew Gutmann, then published a scathing letter calling the school’s policies as “misguided, divisive, counterproductive and cancerous.”
Even though all of L.A.’s elite private schools have had to adjust in various ways to the country’s national reckoning over race, equity and inclusion, Brentwood has been singled out and criticized for its handling by some white families. If nothing else, Eisenberg’s lawsuit is certain to reignite a debate that kicked off a year ago after Los Angeles Magazine detailed how Brentwood and its headmaster Riera — an author and former talk show host who holds a PhD in psychology — had fumbled their attempts to make the school more inclusionary and “woke.”
As part of its effort to be more inclusionary, the school set up a network of affinity groups which were supposed to be organized by race and ethnicity. But according to the suit, when parents tried to set up a Jewish affinity group they were stifled by Riera and other administrators. The suit goes on to allege that Brentwood’s efforts to create a more equitable environment that put a greater emphasis on race created an Orwellian one instead.
Eisenberg claims that the reading list for his daughter’s 8th grade literature class was drastically changed with books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies replaced by Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped. “After defendants implemented their new policies the atmosphere at Brentwood changed completely. Teachers began to engage in racial and political humiliation of their students. Middle-schoolers were confronted by teachers about their ‘white privilege’ and how they were going to redeem themselves,” the suit alleges. “Tests in social study classes were couched in politically charged terminology to insult and denigrate political figures based on Brentwood’s preferred ideology. When confronted, the school offered apologies for the conduct. However, as time moved on, the apologies ceased but the indoctrination continued. Students were forced to study charts on ‘Becoming Anti-Racist’ that made bigoted assumptions about them and required them to engage in political activism based on those assumptions.”
According to a source, Eisenberg was admitted to the California state bar on December 3, 1982. He was deemed “not eligible” to practice law in California on May 31, 2000 and resigned from the bar on August 17, 2000. A posting on the State Bar of California website lists Jerome Eisenberg as “retired”.
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