Diversity committee, critical race theory stir debate at Springboro school board meeting

·4 min read

Jul. 29—Springboro Superintendent Larry Hook told more than 60 parents at the school's board meeting Wednesday night that a committee started to look at diversity and inclusion has no agenda and will not make curriculum decisions.

"They (committees) exist for the district to listen so that it doesn't make decisions in a vacuum," Hook said. "We listen and learn in these committees."

The large crowd listened as parents voiced their concerns about critical race theory, the diversity committee and a consultant used by the district.

Hook said only he and the board have that responsibility for curriculum changes.

Hook said he has similar committees for facilities, finance, curriculum, etc.

"There is no agenda," he said. "Only to be the best school it can be and students are able to learn n a safe environment."

Springboro resident Rob Tuttle continued to raise questions concerning consultant Tiffany Taylor Smith working with the committee and that those meetings are not open to the public.

Taylor Smith is an assistant vice president for diversity and inclusion at the University of Dayton and also does consulting work in this area.

Tuttle, who is running for one of the three open seats on the school board this fall, also complained that the meeting minutes from the June board meeting were vague as they did not include the issues raised by residents, noting there was not one mention of "CRT" that he spoke about.

Tuttle told the Dayton Daily News that he finds the closed committee "contradictory" to being transparent. He felt this violated the state's open meeting or "Sunshine" law and that the meetings should be open to the public. Governmental entities such as school districts can have committees.

While the district announced this week that critical race theory is not part of Springboro's curriculum, Tuttle is also concerned that "CRT concepts are seeping into classrooms" by teachers. He wants the board to go further and not allow teachers to teach CRT in their classes.

Another resident, Frank Catrine, also questioned Smith's views on racism, adding the district should "not have someone come in with implicit bias."

The district said in a statement earlier this week that district follows the Ohio Department of Education's Learning Standards.

"Those standards for social studies were reviewed and adopted in 2018, and do not include CRT. As standards are updated and released, the superintendent will make recommendations to the Board of Education on whether or not to adopt them. Springboro Schools would not recommend the support of the aforementioned curriculum items that are outlined above," the statement said.

Resident Alieu Nuassi told the board that "most people who benefit from diversity and inclusion training didn't have his skin color."

He also recounted that his son was called a racist name at Five Points School and asked him why people are not respectful to others.

Nuassi said, "We all deserve respect. We need to be honest.... We need to teach our kids to be respectful."

Chris Reid, who is a member of the D&I Committee, said the committee is working to get all concerns addressed to make all students feel welcomed in the school. He also defended Taylor Smith's work as a facilitator, saying she "facilitates the direction the committee wants to go in. She has never tried to hijack the committee and does not have an agenda.

Sahiba Salmon-Rekhi, a senior at Springboro High School, said she's "been on the nasty end of racial and sexist comments."

"I believe if there was no issues, the committee wouldn't be needed," she said. "Springboro is failing their minority students."

Board Member Lisa Baab told the audience that the diversity committee had interest from 150 people and the district worked hard to make it as diverse as possible. Baab, who is on the committee, said it has no power and can only make recommendations to the district.

Board Member Dave Stuckey said there is a need to find common ground. He also expressed opposition to CRT and said he supported the committee.

"I don't understand why anyone wouldn't get behind it (D&I Committee)," he said.

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