The Douglas County School Board has adopted its first-ever equity policy.
Directors passed the policy on March 23 after making minor adjustments from first reading, including the removal of a line calling meritocracy a myth that had proven controversial among community members.
‘This is not a partisan issue,” Director Kevin Leung said. ‘This is how we can provide people what they need. Equity is about giving people what they need.”
Board President David Ray noted the policy is not regulatory and will work in conjunction with other policies already in place concerning school cultures, nondiscrimination and equal access to education.
The equity policy aims to ensure people have the resources they need in the system based on their identities, from their religion to their disability to their race, directors said.
Despite unanimous board approval, the policy had stoked fierce debate in the community in the days leading up to its adoption and during public comment at the virtual meeting.
Critics have feared it will usher in curriculum about issues including white privilege and gender, that it places too great an emphasis on people’s differences and invoked liberal ideologies.
Many asked why the district would focus on equity instead of equality, or providing each student with the same resources and opportunities. Others had feared the policy calling meritocracy a myth would result in teaching students that hard work does not help them reach goals.
During public comment, community member Will Johnson thanked directors for considering the changes they ultimately approved but said he was still concerned the policy would group students by “surface-level differences” and lead to “equality of result.”
Highlands Ranch High School Principal Chris Page, a member of the district’s equity teams which helped draft the policy, said students will still need to work hard to achieve academic success but that the policy would help remove barriers for them.
“It doesn’t guarantee to them that they are going to get an A,” he said.
Other parents said during public comment they were “thrilled beyond measure” to see the policy and called it “long overdue.” Supporters said they hope it will lead to better cultures for schools, describing racist incidents among students like use of the N-word.
Director Elizabeth Hanson called some public comment the board received “hard to process,” particularly comments aimed at LGBTQ individuals.
Multiple people who submitted comment online or during the meeting questioned how the policy would affect transgender students’ access to athletics and restrooms, and how the district would conduct learning about gender and sexual orientation if the policy was adopted.
Community member Joy Overbeck said the district should leave those lessons to parents and not classroom educators.
“The collective feedback has shown me how critically important this policy is,” Hanson said.
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