Indianapolis News and HeadlinesEducation

Actions

Carmel High School students talk about controversy surrounding their curriculum

Posted at 12:00 PM, Oct 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 12:16:29-04

CARMEL — School districts across Central Indiana have moved their board meetings online after disruptive behavior from community members.

Pandemic-related prevention measures, such as masking, and curriculum have been their top complaints.

The Center Grove Community School Corporation became the latest school in our area do a virtual board meeting on Thursday night. Sheriff's deputies had to be called to their last one because mask-less parents refused to leave the meeting.

Another school district that moved its board meetings online is Carmel Clay Schools.

For months, they've dealt with what they say are "deliberately orchestrated multiple disruptions to the business portion of the meeting."

Those disruptions started in the spring when some parents and community members believed the district was teaching Critical Race Theory. They aren't, but it didn't stop people from protesting at meetings.

Since then, we've heard from Carmel Clay Schools officials, parents and community members, but never from any students until now.

Clizia Martini, Dariush Khurram and Remi Shirayanagi all attend Carmel High School. They told WRTV they know they go to one of the best high schools in the state.

"I feel like, academically, they do a very good job of preparing me. I feel like when I talk to my other friends in other states and different countries, I definitely feel that I'm getting a very good education," Martini said.

"We have a great academic program. I'm very thankful and privileged to be a student at Carmel," Shirayanagi said.

However, these students say the rigorous coursework leaves little time for the teachers to think about anything else.

"The life lessons that are needed in life to succeed, sometimes they lack in a lot of those areas and I have to learn those on my own," Khurram said.

Martini and Shirayanagi agree. So it was surprising to all three of them when they heard claims that Critical Race Theory was a part of Carmel Clay's curriculum.

"That cannot be farther from the truth. The people who are saying that probably have never stepped into a classroom at Carmel. Probably don't even have students at Carmel," Shirayanagi said. "I just don't even know where that comes from. Before all this went down, I've never even heard of Critical Race Theory. I've never once heard it in a classroom setting, unless we're (the students) talking about Unify Carmel."

"I learned what Critical Race Theory was on my own because of the comments made by Unify Carmel saying they were teaching us Critical Race Theory," Khurram said.

Through social media posts and some interviews, what those speaking out against district are actually referring to is Carmel Clay's diversity, equity and inclusion initiative.

"I don't see how supporting diversity, equity and inclusion equals Critical Race Theory," Shirayanagi said.

While these students are happy their school has DEI initiatives, they don't think the programs go far enough.

"I feel like what we even consider to be DEI work is such the minimal bare amount students can do. It's not like we're teaching anything expansive," Martini said.

"While I think that it's great we have a DEI program, I think there are more steps that need to be taken to support our students more," Khurram said.

Despite the pushback, Khurram, Martini, and Shirayanagi hope things will continue to change for the better at Carmel Clay Schools when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion.

On its website, Carmel Clay explains diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, such as listening sessions, events and committees, are meant to provide resources for students and staff.

The district emphasizes that programs associated with DEI are not a replacement for any subject, will not reduce opportunities for any students and will not change expectations for academic achievement.

RELATED | Debate over having newly appointed Diversity, Equity & Inclusion officer at Carmel-Clay Schools | Parents for and against Carmel Clay School's DEI efforts rally at school meeting | Public comment temporarily suspended at Carmel Clay School Board meeting | Dozens of public access complaints filed against Carmel Clay School District | Parents express their support in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Carmel Clay schools | Carmel Clay School Board meetings to go virtual | Justice Department to address threats against teachers, school board members