Controversy over the Critical Carmel Race Theory: A Timeline

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From marathon public comment sessions in Westfield to hundreds of people gathered with signs in Carmel, schools’ diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are in the spotlight in suburban Hamilton County.

While this work is not new, there is a growing interest in the community in what educators are doing when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, or DCI, especially after last summer. It was at this point that the police murders of blacks pushed conversations about race to the fore across the country.

As district leaders navigated the school during a pandemic, they also strived to make the school inclusive and equitable through programs, resources, data analytics, and more. Several districts have hired equity leaders.

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In the communities, new organizations were formed aimed at empowering the districts. And school board meetings got louder and longer as parents and community members spoke out for both support and opposition to IEI’s efforts.

June 2021

June 15: Parents talk about issues of transparency, critical breed theory and more at a Noblesville school board meeting. Members of the public also shouted and made comments during the meeting, prompting Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer to ask them to be respectful.

June 9: During public comments at a Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting, several speakers raised concerns about transparency, critical race theory, and socio-emotional learning (SEL). HSE School Board President Janet Pritchett underlines the district’s dedication to SEL and DCI, sparking public outcry.

May 2021

May 17: As Carmel Schools’ diversity efforts continue, supporters, many of whom are students, speak at a school board meeting. Hundreds of people gather outside ahead of the meeting with more support for DCI than opponents.

May 13: Noblesville Schools collect feedback on diversity efforts at the first of four community meetings. Here’s what happens next.

May 11: After meetings where public comment lasted for hours, the Westfield Washington School Board said public comment would only be on agenda items. There are no public commentators.

May 4: Parents in Noblesville are protesting how schools talk about racism before and during a school board meeting.

May 3: Noblesville Schools Announce Community Meeting on Diversity Work, via email.

A crowd begins to gather ahead of the Carmel Clay School Board meeting on May 17, 2021. This group carried signs in support of DCI’s work in the district.
MJ Slaby / IndyStar

April 2021

April: Unify Carmel Forms after several people spoke to the school board about their concerns about DCI’s work. The organization says it wants to restore academic excellence, hold the school board accountable and transparent to all parents and “ensure parental control over academic decisions, in order to achieve academic excellence.”

April 26: At a school board meeting, parents criticize the diversity work of Carmel Clay Schools, calling it divisive and political. After the public comments, DCI agent Terri Roberts-Leonard provided an update to the board.

April 22: HSE hires Yvonne Stokes as the next superintendent, and she is the district’s first black superintendent. The board vote on his hiring is 5-2 and the protesters are outside.

April 20: A heated debate continues over the school library’s gender identity books in Westfield, with public commentary spanning hours.

April 20: In a morning work session, Nataki Pettigrew, Head of Equity and Inclusion HSE, provides an update on DCI at the HSE School Board. Later that day, the district sends out a statement regarding the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial. The email acknowledged that there was racial trauma from the trial and that there was still work to be done to have a fair and equitable community and school district.

A protester holds a sign outside a building as the Noblesville School Board meets indoors on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Protesters, who were unwilling to provide their names, said they didn't want schools to teach critical race theory, a concept that examines systemic racism as part of American life.  The district said it does not teach critical breed theory.

March 2021

March: Two new organizations are forming this month. Unify Westfield is created after several parents spoke to the school board. The organization says it seeks “transparency, respect for parental authority and the creation of a school culture centered on what unites us rather than divides us”.

Fishers One is also forming with the goal of “keeping people informed while restoring academic excellence in our schools, holding elected officials accountable, keeping Fishers a great place to live and training the next generation of leaders.” “.

March 29: After a debate over books on gender identity, Westfield schools are considering new policies relating to books and resources used in schools.

March 24: HSE Superintendent Allen Bourff said the Racial Justice Town Hall was a success and the district will plan more.

March 23: HSE has a Virtual Town Hall on Racial Justice.

March 9: Westfield parents debate elementary school access to gender identity books at a school board meeting.

March 4: After the Black Lives Matter letters spark an uproar, HSE schools propose a town hall for racial justice.

February 2021

February 10: With a protest outside, the HSE school board is making two different statements about Black Lives Matter.

February 9: The HSE Superintendent’s mixed messages on Black Lives Matter leave the community hurt and confused. Bourff apologized for the letter to the faculty with a second letter.

February 8: HSE Superintendent Bourff says to teach Black Lives Matter as a policy, later apologizes.

Lousie Jackson is sworn in as the new member of the Carmel Clay School Board on Monday, January 11, 2021 at the Carmel Clay District Office in Carmel Ind.

Lousie Jackson is sworn in as the new member of the Carmel Clay School Board on Monday, January 11, 2021 at the Carmel Clay District Office in Carmel Ind.
Grace Hollars / IndyStar

January 2021

January 19: Nataki Pettigrew begins as Equity and Inclusion Manager at HSE.

January 19: Terri Roberts-Leonard began as a DCI officer at Carmel Clay Schools.

January 13: HSE appoints new Director of Equity and Inclusion.

January 11: Louise Jackson, who is the first black member of the Carmel School Board, is sworn in.

2020

December 14: Carmel Clay Schools Hires First District Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer.

November 2: Noblesville Schools are hiring an Equity and Inclusion Officer for the District.

June: Two organizations are formed this month. Racial Equity Allied Communities (first named Carmel Against Racial Injustice) focus on education, community and policing reform. In the area of ​​education, the organization wants schools to be a safe place for all students and uses education to prevent racial discrimination.

The Westfield Parents for Change forms focus on “eliminating and preventing systemic racism in the schools of Westfield Washington, our city, township institutions and in the hearts of the residents of Westfield”. The organization said it was working with “employees, administrators and policy makers to help create an environment where Westfield students and residents feel safe, included and cared for.”

June 4: Carmel Superintendent Michael Beresford sends an email saying it is “difficult to understand the murder of George Floyd”. He urges the community not to “keep silent in the face of the suffering of others” and stresses that the district is committed to inclusiveness.

June 3: Noblesville Superintendent Niedermeyer sends email after “recent tragic death of George Floyd and other black Americans”. She writes that educators must be leaders in helping “break down systems that perpetuate inequality, injustice and racism” and emphasizes the district’s commitment to racial equity.

June 2: Then-superintendent Sherry Grate sends email noting that the district is looking for ways to teach students to “stand up against injustice, racism and inequity” after watching calls for “justice and tie after the murder of George Floyd “. She urged the community to come together for conversations.

May 30: Superintendent HSE Bourff sends email in response to the “harsh reality of lives lost – not only from the global pandemic, but also from racially motivated violence.” He wrote that “we must stand together against injustice, racism and violence” and underlined HSE’s commitment to all students.

Call IndyStar Education Reporter MJ Slaby at 317-447-1586 or email him at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @mjslaby.

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