School district defends equity policy

Douglas County education officials respond to community backlash

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/11/21

Despite intense criticism about a new equity policy and some parents threatening to withdraw students, the Douglas County School District isn't wavering on the equity policy or ancillary initiatives. …

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School district defends equity policy

Douglas County education officials respond to community backlash

Posted

Despite intense criticism about a new equity policy and some parents threatening to withdraw students, the Douglas County School District isn't wavering on the equity policy or ancillary initiatives.

At a June 1 DCSD Board of Education meeting, administrators and board directors responded to public outrage, but not in the way the outraged desired. Staff presented plans for equity policy implementation in future years and directors commended them.

“I want to thank our leaders in this area for listening to our students who have not felt a sense of belonging in our schools and in our community. I am sad to say that over the past couple of meetings, it has become even more clear to me why some students feel that way,” said Director Krista Holtzmann at the June 1 meeting.

Holtzmann was alluding to board meetings in May when parents talked for hours during public comments about the perceived dangers of new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. The board passed a new equity policy in March; the Gemini Group LLC., a firm, facilitated staff DEI training in April; and the district allowed No Place for Hate in schools, a voluntary club focused on anti-bias and anti-bullying.

To many parents, all three items are seen as were examples of critical race theory (CRT), a form of analysis that some parents oppose in school settings. CRT is an academic framework that examines social, cultural and legal issues as they relate to race.

At the June 1 meeting, DCSD Superintendent Corey Wise kicked off a presentation by reiterating that the equity policy “is not critical race theory.” He was immediately met by audience uproars and disappointed facial expressions. Board President David Ray responded, “So, that is the behavior that we can't have tonight because it will slow us down and it is judgmental, and it is condemnation.”

The commotion was followed by a presentation from Remy Rummel, DCSD director of language, culture, and equity, who spoke slowly and sternly about the facts and falsehoods circling district DEI efforts. “We must clarify misinformation and rumors,” Rummel said.

First, she said that DEI initiatives are not back doors for CRT. She explained that CRT is a broad approach to thinking about society. Other frameworks for critical thinking share traits with CRT, but they are not one and the same.

“We foster critical thinking. We foster ways of thinking, how to think, but absolutely not what to think,” Rummel said.

Rummel also said that the DCSD paid for the Gemini Group with grant money, not the general fund, and that No Place for Hate isn't teaching students to become more feminine or trans-feminine, two rumors that have been in the community, she said.

Rummel was followed by Matt Reynolds, chief assessment and data officer, who talked about plans for the equity policy in the future. By the end of 2021-22 school year, the district will finish defining educational equity gaps using data (or identifying performance gaps across demographic groups and the resources needed to respond) and finalize the district's equity advisory committee's selection process and bylaws. The district will then draft a plan during the 2022-23 year to address achievement gaps and will formally implement the plan during the 2023-24 year.

“By joining together and by talking and making sure that correct information is out there, I believe we can be stronger as a community … So I just want to thank you all for your work,” Director Susan Meek said.

Director Kevin Leung emphasized that the process to draft the equity policy was lengthy, comprehensive and sought community input. People shouldn't be surprised or be spreading misinformation, said Leung and other directors and staff.

Following staff's presentation and the board's discussion, members of the public spoke passionately — both for and against the equity policy — for another two and half hours.

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