CARMEL, Ind. — There is a growing divide amongst parents at Carmel Clay Schools (CCS) when it comes to the district’s use of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officer, as well as the teaching of social emotional learning (SEL). Opponents of the programs believe it causes division by promoting critical race theory (CRT).
“CRT is not being taught in the classroom. CRT is an ideology, not a curriculum. SEL is the curriculum to bring in this ideology,” said former CCS teacher Paige Miller. “What we are seeing as this rolls out is you are either a victim or a victimizer and either oppressed or oppressor.”
“I would like to reiterate that Carmel Clay Schools does not teach critical race theory or the 1619 project,” explained CCS School Board President Layla Spanenberg. “We teach character counts, and kindness matters.”
SEL lessons also include teaching coping mechanisms and stress management.
“It’s really a lot of skills that I’m writing notes down as I’m teaching them because we didn’t get that as children,” said Carmella Sparrow who teaches at a local charter school, but has two children in CCS.
Sparrow believes the DEI officer is necessary in schools to help create an inclusive environment to help ensure any marginalized students are taken care of.
“As a parent of color, with children of color, I know how important it is that their identity is affirmed while they are at school,” added Sparrow. “Growing up in school we didn’t learn much of other people of color, and how they contributed. That gives off negative stereotypes.”
Parents and students lined Monday night’s school board meeting to voice both their concerns and approval of the program. Only 19 people were allowed inside for the public comment section due to social distancing practices. Only 11 were able to speak before the thirty minute public comment time limit ran out.
The public forum was on a first come first serve basis for speakers regardless of which side of the argument parents and students were on. Some people came hours before the meeting to get in line, yet the majority of the people who were able to speak night were in favor of the DEI program. Three of those speakers were students.
“Many parents say they should teach their kids morals, not the school, which is fair enough, but let’s be careful on the implications of these morals,” detailed one student who spoke. “One’s morals should not be used against other students on account of their, for example, skin color or sexuality.”
Those parents against the programs say they want the school system to let their children opt out.
“You are overreaching into the family lane, and that is creating a big problem,” added Miller.
“The problem I had with it is, it is a trauma based program, and in my 33 years of being a teacher in Carmel we have never unboxed one program and sent it out in one-size-fits-all. When Prairie Trace Elementary has a book in their library for about infants to age three about the critical race theory, I don’t think parents are aware of what is going on.”