Exposing the White Innocence Playbook of School District Leaders

Melanie Bertrand, Carrie Sampson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In this article, we examine how school district leaders bolster white supremacy by deploying white innocence, a discourse in which individuals or entities project a positive image of themselves while deflecting blame for racism. We focus on a school district that was the site of strategic and sustained advocacy from Black community members and their supporters, catalyzed by an egregious racist incident in 2018 and anti-Blackness in general. Through an analysis of videos of school board meetings, we demonstrate that district leaders projected white innocence by using four discursive strategies: denying blame, concealing racism, dodging responsibility, and glorifying the district. These form what we call the white innocence playbook among those who govern and lead school districts. Ultimately, we argue, the conceptual tool of the white innocence playbook can help disrupt white supremacy in district governance, thereby advancing equity and racial justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEquity and Excellence in Education
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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