Close to 50 parents packed the Solon Board of Education meeting room last week for a continued debate and discussion on the districts’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program.
“The lessons taught do not accomplish what they said it would,” Solon resident Catherine Catino said. “The lessons are not about learning other cultures.”
She said students were shown a video about a black child and how it will be hard for him to get ahead in life and about violence against minorities.
“Learning the repercussions of racism is important, but where are the lessons that help foster inclusion?” Ms. Catino asked. “How are we making this a safer space for students when specific groups seem targeted?
“If we argue that racism is about those who are in power and white people have unearned power by virtue of being white, what message are we sending?” she said. “We are sending completely contradictory messages to children on such an important topic. Is this honestly what we want taught to our kids?”
Resident Ashley Beavers asked, “What is the school’s agenda? My child said, why do I feel guilty about being white? It’s not something I can control.”
Ms. Beavers said the lessons are only showing white people being violent when discussing racism.
“The school is teaching that only one race is to be blamed for racist ideologies,” she said. “Isn’t targeting white people discriminatory by their definitions?
“As a parent I must ask, ‘what is happening to the school we have trusted?’ ” Ms. Beavers said. “You have created an environment” that promotes sexual confusion and racism, she added.
Ms. Beavers also said the DEI lessons and associated information were given to parents after the lessons were taught in school.
“You stopped supporting the family dynamic,” she said.
“The goal is not to be opaque,” said Tamara Strom, the district’s communications director. “This program is evolving as well.”
Ms. Strom said that similar to anti-bullying lessons, the information was sent to families after it was taught in an effort to create talking points at home.
Information on the last lesson on race and ethnicity was sent to parents the day before the lessons were taught so they could ask questions if they desired, Ms. Strom said.
Solon resident Jenny Siemen said that the administration refused to send parents presentations before lessons were given and “this is a violation of our parental rights.”
She added that the DEI lessons are filled with bias.
Ms. Strom said parents are always encouraged to join committees and subcommittees on each topic.
The Solon City School District has been working on elements of diversity and inclusion for several years, Ms. Strom added. There are longstanding programs throughout the district that promote kindness, anti-bullying and bringing students together, she said.
Solon resident Brooke Zelwin said she supports DEI programming, especially when it comes to American history and racial discrimination. Traditional history lessons lack the horrors of slavery, she added.
“DEI lessons are a great way to support our students, and I applaud the Solon Board of Education for standing behind these values,” said Solon High School student Ava Shaker, a rising junior. “School is a place for learning and asking questions. A great step to inclusion is helping kids have those conversations and be educated in a safe learning environment.”
“To the DEI detractors, why are you afraid of exposing the truth’?” Solon resident Bridget Caver asked. “You’re tired of hearing about inequities and racism? Try living with it.
“Try raising your child to persevere while opposing team members say racial slurs,” she continued. “Explain to your daughter to stay on a team when they use racial slurs.
“Every single one of us has the responsibility to combat racism and inequity, starting with the staff,” Ms. Caver said. “The DEI lessons were developed based on the concerns of the students. Is anyone listening to them?
“I find it interesting that the racism lesson is causing such an uproar,” Ms. Caver added. “I encourage you to keep DEI as part of the curriculum so we can truly live in a world where there is liberty and justice for all.”
“Please do not fix what is not broken,” Solon resident Michael Drozhinskiy said. “Do not train our kids in diversity and inclusion. Teach them one thing – don’t treat one person how you don’t want to be treated.
“They will figure out the rest,” he said.
The lessons show that racism can only come from white people, Solon resident Michael Dubson said. Teaching impressionable kids about racism and sexual orientation should be left to parents, he said.
DEI lessons guide students to think, to question and to clarify and understand, said Solon resident Lisa Chiu, who serves as Solon Council of PTAs’ Diversity and Inclusion chairwoman.
It does not diminish their education “but expands their world view,” she added. “I support the schools DEI initiatives and encourage everyone in the community to come together and do the same.”
Solon resident Michelle Shene, who serves as the Solon High School PTA Diversity and Inclusion chairwoman, said students are asking for these lessons based on surveys.
“They want and need to be educated,” Ms. Shene said.
School board Chairwoman Julie Glavin said she appreciated this discussion, even the dissenters.
“Discussion is good,” she said. “We appreciate everyone’s opinions.
“When this many people make it their business to come and share their ideas, as a board we think it’s important they have opportunity to speak.”