The Douglas County school board will vote on changes to the equity policy at the May 23 meeting following a tense work session where revisions were made and discussed.
School board members spent almost two hours on May 8 going over changes largely suggested by members Mike Peterson and Christy Williams.
Peterson, president of the board, previously drafted modifications to the policy that would expand the definition of diversity, add metrics for success and allow the superintendent to seek resources beyond the Equity Advisory Council to implement the policy.
During the workshop, Peterson reiterated that his goals with the revisions are to clear up ambiguity, define educational equity in Douglas County and provide specific goals.
“I tried to make it easy to get right and difficult or impossible to get wrong,” Peterson said.
Board members Elizabeth Hanson, Susan Meek and David Ray echoed past comments about not wanting to change the policy and repeated concerns about making changes to it without the input of those who created it and district experts, such as the director of equity.
“When I initially voted for this policy, it was absolutely about a culture within our district and I feel like a lot of the changes that have been made narrowed that focus more to addressing access and access is something that’s required by law,” Hanson said. “I feel like narrowing it waters down what my initial hopes for the policy were.”
Ray added that he thinks trying to edit the policy so that no one can misinterpret it is a lost cause.
However, other board members insisted change is needed to address ambiguity and make the whole community feel included. Peterson said the group of experts who wrote the original policy “lacked diversity.”
When discussing specific policy suggestions, Hanson, Meek and Ray had the biggest concerns with expanding the definition of diversity to include personality, thought and instrumental diversity on top of identity diversity.
The three said it minimized the importance of identity and the seriousness of discrimination.
“For us to dilute that and say there’s all different kinds of diversity, for me, just takes away the impact of what this policy was intended to do,” Ray said. “The intent of the policy is to deal with the illness in our system, which is that we have people who are being marginalized and we have to be intentional about to make sure that goes away.”
Peterson, who posed the change, said it didn’t diminish identity, but built on it. He said he took the definitions from books written by Scott Page, such as “The Diversity Bonus,” and other business industry practices.
“If we respect (other kinds of) diversity, of course we can continue to respect diversity of identity,” Peterson said.
Board member Becky Myers agreed with Peterson, saying she liked the expanded diversity definition because she feels like students will be able to identify with it better.
“It gives them all of the kinds of diversity that they could be thinking about or relate too,” she said.
Williams also suggested multiple additions and changes.
One revision subs language in the first paragraph about the district implementing an “unbiased, culturally relevant, responsive, and sustaining learning environment” with “empowered learning environment.”
“I just think putting empowered instead of the other words puts a more positive spin about empowering our students,” Williams said.
Another change Williams suggested adds a metric regarding helping all students develop the Colorado Essential Skills, which include things like personal, civic and professional skills.
In a list of things the district condemns, Williams included bullying, harassment and promoting specific aspects of identity as superior or inferior to others.
As the board closed out the conversation, Ray and Meek asked the board to not rush the process and again encouraged them to get feedback on the proposed revisions from its original authors and the community before any action is taken.
“Unless I hear from those experts that they’re in agreement that the modifications that were recommended and made fit and don’t dilute or change the policy, then I can’t support a majority of the revisions,” Ray said.
Peterson said he would work to release the redlined version of the policy before the May 23 meeting to allow people to review it and offer thoughts, but made it clear that he still intends to take a vote this month.