Some schools have halted diversity programs due to opposition

Local school boards taken over by conservatives have already changed lessons about racism and social injustice in many classrooms. 

Some schools have halted diversity programs due to opposition

Some districts are now being challenged in their efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Alexis Knox Miller, her Colorado school district equity director, felt that the work she was doing with a volunteer team was solid, especially after an audit revealed where the district was failing to provide equal opportunities for all students.

After more than a full year of meetings, Knox-Miller decided to disband the equity leadership group in December. After voicing doubts over the work, new conservative members won a majority of the school board. She was concerned that the efforts might not be successful.

According to the new board, it will be addressing the issue in spring.

Knox-Miller stated, "Around and the time that equity audit was being published, I realized that there had been a shift in the tide around diversity, equity, inclusion efforts." "People began to confuse the definition of equity and critical race theory. The absurd accusation that we were teaching critical racism theory in kindergarten classrooms was made."

The debate about diversity, equity, and inclusion can run through every aspect of a school system, including recruitment, services, and equipment. This has implications for spending and hiring.

Some districts have seen proposals to make schools more welcoming for students of diverse backgrounds reversed due to turnover on school boards. Meanwhile, work elsewhere is being hampered by acrimonious discussion around controversial topics such as critical race theory.

School administrators claim critical-race theorya scholarly theory that focuses on the idea of racism being systemic in the nation's institutions is not taught in K-12 schools. However, this has not done much to change the minds of those who claim that schools are wasting money, perpetuating divisions, and shameing white children by following initiatives that they consider critical race theory.

According to Dan Domenech (executive director of the School Superintendents Association), divisions are taking a heavy toll in a political climate already fraught with heated debates over vaccine requirements and pandemic masks.

Domenech stated that even in areas not as threatened, people are rethinking what they say, what they do, and how they do it, because it's having a chilling impact on the entire equity, diversity, and inclusion movement.

Colorado Springs School District 11 is a diverse and large school district with 26,000 students. Knox-Miller worked there. It was the first area in the region to adopt an equity policy. The unanimous approval came May 27, 2020. This approval came two days after the Minnesota killing of George Floyd. This sparked national discussion about race and social justice in schools.

This policy recognized gaps in achievement and opportunities for marginalized student groups, and acknowledged "the effect of systemic inequalities on teaching and learning."

Knox-Miller was able to commission an audit from the American Institutes for Research as part of its work. It was found that schools with high levels of English language learners, special education students, students from poverty, and students of color scored significantly lower than other schools.

Critics raised questions about the findings and how they were presented at "equity cafes", a series that included public meetings. Some said there was limited discussion. Conservative candidates are now focusing on the school board with three seats winning in November's election.

Knox-Miller had no other choice than to stand down.

Parth Melpakam, the Board President, stated via email that while the board has not yet discussed the issue, they plan to do so at a spring work session.

He stated that the D11 BOE is committed to ensuring educational equity by providing all children with the resources and support they need to reach their academic potential.

Pennridge, Pennsylvania's diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative was put into limb last year. It became a flashpoint during debates about COVID-19 safety protocols including mandates for masks.

Adrienne King, a Democrat, was one of the architects of the plan. She ran for a seat on a school board seat and lost. Five Republicans won the election after voting against the initiative which they called divisive. While a new committee reviews the program, it is uncertain what its future holds.

The district's diversity equity and inclusion guidebook is no longer available on the district's site. It suggested ways to improve teacher training and recruit diverse job candidates. It also encouraged students to reflect upon their own history and culture through lessons.

King stated that the initiative could have prevented unnecessarily difficult experiences. King cited an example of King's second-grader calling King's daughter a slave, after she learned about Frederick Douglass.

It was just, "Oh, I discovered this new fact in second grade." Frederick Douglass was Black. She said, "You must be a slave."

The request for comment was not answered by the school administrators or the president of the board.

Parents Defending Education, based in Arlington, Virginia, is critical of diversity and equity programming. It lists examples of inappropriate activities on its website, including a Missouri educator training session that discussed implicit bias and microagressions.

Asra Nomani is the vice president of strategy and investigations. She stated that they are now Trojan horses for divisive programs like segregated groups based upon race, privilege walks, or privilege bingo.

The Carroll Independent School District's newly elected conservative majority killed a December cultural competency plan and disbanded the diversity council of suburban Dallas as part of a legal agreement.

Since a 2018 video of students in the predominantly white district singing a racial slur at an after-school party, the plan was in place. In 2019, a second video was released showing students using the slur.

"We don’t have a problem with racism in Southlake." "We don't have a racism problem in Southlake."

Nevertheless, many other initiatives are continuing as planned.

Superintendent Morcease Bearsley stated that the equity program Clayton County schools implemented more than a decade ago was meant to keep politics out of it. The task force conducted a "deep dive" into district programming and will use data to make policy changes.

Equity is not about emotions. He said equity is about data and making sure that data informs our decisions. That's the essence of equity. What are the needs? Who has the need for resources? What resources do they require?

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