Several Olentangy Local School District policies that target issues of student diversity are designed to promote an inclusive and accepting classroom environment.
But one school board member wants to abolish those policies, arguing they do just the opposite.
At their meeting last Thursday, Nov. 29, board members held a first reading of proposed minor language changes to district policy. That spurred board member Adam White's assertion that the district's diversity policies -- which promote dialogue addressing differences in race, ethnicity, gender, religion and more -- are counterproductive and even racist.
"Putting a value on race is basically what this is doing," White said. "Why would you value one over another? That's what you call racism.
"Infusion of diversity across the entire school curriculum and in textbooks will force an unhealthy preoccupation with oneself or one's race."
White said lessons should address only achievements, never race or other demographic factors.
The first policy he critiqued states the school board supports the inclusion of diversity issues in the classroom and in professional development opportunities for teachers.
"The board believes that multicultural education is of vital importance to the process of the development of students and staff, the achievement of harmony within our community and the stability and success of our nation," reads board policy 2211.
It continues: "The goal of an inclusive perspective is to help students understand themselves and others, and appreciate and value similarities and differences in all people."
White took particular issue with a clause that calls for "infusion" of diversity-related content throughout the curriculum.
"When you study Albert Einstein's theory or Isaac Newton's telescope, the fact that they're both white people is irrelevant and just distracts the kids from what they're supposed to be learning," White said.
"Everything the kids are thinking about now is, 'OK, here's the theory -- but what race are they, and are they homosexual? I need to make sure I don't discriminate against them so I need to know what race they are.' "
District Communications Director Karen Truett said the policies are mostly meant to ensure that textbooks and lessons accurately describe history.
"If we start a new course, let's make sure we're not getting a textbook that leaves out every minority or every woman that has achieved something," she said. "Let's make sure that the materials we're using accurately reflect everyone's contributions."
Director of Secondary Learning Mark Raiff said the policies are intended to promote awareness and added: "I do not feel that these policies could jeopardize the integrity of a lesson or have a negative impact on how we deliver course content."
White said the district should instead offer elective classes on racial or religious diversity and purge that information from other subjects.
But board member Stacy Dunbar said the evidence contradicts White's stance.
"Studies show it has to be infused; otherwise, it doesn't get talked about," she said.
"There are volumes of studies that talk about what makes a difference in diversity and inclusion and it has nothing to do with ignoring the issue."
White also said a second policy, which states the superintendent should look for bias in classroom lessons to ensure the contributions of protected classes are fairly depicted, amounts to 'rewriting history.'
Dunbar responded: "You're not rewriting anything; you're just saying what history actually was. We're rewriting history if we only talk about the white people who have contributed.
"It is relevant to a kid who's struggling in math who thinks that because of the color of his skin he's not able to comprehend something," she added.
The board will vote on the policy changes at its meeting next Thursday, Dec. 13.