Scenes of Castle Rock, CO, October 30, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

The Douglas County School Board predicted back in March that an equity policy the board was considering would upset some parents. But perhaps board directors underestimated just how unhappy some people would be.

“That (equity) work has been going for some time, but certainly not at the level of the concern you have expressed tonight. Some of the things you stated trouble me, I’ll be honest,” said board President David Ray at a meeting last week after 30 parents spoke during public comments, mostly to criticize the board and district staff for endorsing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

For two hours, community members condemned the district’s new equity policy and its hiring of a firm to provide teachers with DEI training. As a result, four separate speakers told the board that they were withdrawing their children, a total of nine students, from the district that serves more than 67,000 students.

“You’re creating more of a divisive environment by pushing families like mine out of the school system because you are teaching children to feel bad or have preferential treatment based only on the color of their skin,” said parent Lora Wolfe. “I do not want my kids to be part of this nonsensical experiment.”

Following years of repeated instances of racism and racial insensitivity in DCSD, an Equity Advisory Council drafted the policy last year to guide the district in creating a more welcoming environment for racial, ethnic, gender and sexual minorities. The board unanimously passed the policy on second reading on March 23.

Then, in April, the district finalized a contract with Gemini Group, LLC for staff DEI training. Gemini provided a keynote address and community session at a workshop on April 19.

The equity policy itself frustrated some Douglas County parents, but the inclusion of the Gemini Group was the last straw for some. The policy and Gemini’s hiring, parents argued, are evidence that the district is teaching students critical race theory (CRT), an academic framework that teaches race is socially constructed. Recent conservative pushback to the idea has led Republican state lawmakers across the U.S. to introduce bills banning CRT in public schools.

Read more at Castle Rock News-Press.