HAMILTON COUNTY — Diversity, equity and inclusion is an initiative that has become part of regular training sessions in corporate office, nonprofits and school settings.
In Hamilton County, leaders of Carmel Clay Schools have followed suit, vowing to make the state's eighth largest school district a place that welcomes all types of students and staff. This is welcoming news to local activist, Ashten Spilker.
"A large percentage of employers say that having an employee educated on issues of diversity is important to them. So, we're preparing our students for the world that they're about to head out to," Spilker said.
In a message to families in the district, Carmel's newly appointed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Terri Roberts-Leonard, described the school district's DEI mission as a way to, "Foster an environment where all students and staff are supported, respected and valued while being safe and heard."
Carmel Clay's website explained its DEI efforts as a series of training opportunities for school staff in hopes of providing them with a better understanding of the different cultures and experiences of their students and co-workers.
Carmella Sparrow can't understand why anyone would be against that.
"I see DEI and racial reconciliation a lot like a good relationship," she said. "Anytime you've had a strain on a relationship you can't just brush over the issue and move on. You have to talk through the issue."
Ahead of a board meeting Monday night, a group of parents protested the district's DEI initiatives claiming that Carmel Clay Schools are teaching students Critical Race Theory, which is a belief shared by many civil rights scholars and activists that racism is part of everyday life for people of color.
Alvin Lui is a concerned parent who said he moved his family from California to get away from DEI initiatives and Critical Race Theory.
"Speaking as an Asian, my family is Chinese," he said. "As a father of a young family I've never lost a single minute of sleep to white supremacy. It's never been a problem. But, I've lost a lot of sleep to this ideology because it teaches again what I said earlier; it teaches my daughter that her only characteristics in life that matters is that she's Asian and female."
Carmel Clay Schools continues to stress they do not teach Critical Race Theory and their DEI initiatives for staff have nothing to do with what their students are being taught in the classroom.
Their DEI initiative was not on Monday night's school board meeting agenda, but parents used the public comment section to share their thoughts. Parents also spoke out last month following the January hiring of the school district's first DEI officer.