Diversity Web Page Causes Controversy

Back in May, Winthrop Public Schools (WPS) published a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion resource page on its website. Around a week later, it was taken down. Since then, Superintendent Lisa Howard said she has received pressure from two opposing groups of parents: those who want the page back and those who don’t.

“This whole issue has caused so much controversy in a time when we need less,” said Howard in an interview with the Transcript. “It’s very frustrating.”

Last spring, Howard, Curriculum Director Lori Gallivan and district adjustment counselors volunteered to collaborate on a resource page for topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. WPS is not required to have such a page on its website.

Their first iteration featured educational books, podcasts and videos related to race, gender identity and youth mental health.

“We wanted to reach out to our parents, to provide an opportunity to expand their knowledge,” said Howard.

However, shortly after launching, Howard said she noticed that some of the posted content contained political rhetoric. This ran counter to the team’s vision for the page, which was to provide unbiased educational resources. So she shut it down.

“We paused the website so we could review our work and ensure that content was free of political messaging,” said Howard.

Soon afterward, the volunteers realized that the page had lacked resources for other marginalized populations, such as immigrants and the disabled. They wanted the new page to reflect the full spectrum of Winthrop students.

“We teach kids who identify all kinds of ways,” Howard said. “Our job is to make sure there are resources available for people to educate themselves.”

Since the page was removed, Howard said she has been inundated with phone calls and emails from two distinct groups of parents: one demanding that the page be reactivated, and the other questioning why the page needs to exist at all.

The former group has accused the district of taking down the page due to pressure from the latter, a claim Howard flatly denies.

And as far as why it’s taken so long to get it back online, she stated that she wanted to maintain the original volunteer team, whose members don’t work during the summer.

Howard said that reconvening the group will “not be a top ten priority” in the fall, adding that adjustment counselors will be focusing on student recovery from COVID and from recent traumatic events in the community.

In addition, Howard stated that the “demands and accusations” she has received from parents wanting the page back up has only caused further “hesitancy.”

“The loud crowd doesn’t drive me,” she said. “We will get to it, but not because parents are putting pressure on us.”

In the meantime, Howard said that parents can always contact the district directly to obtain resources for their students.

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