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Mon Sep 13, 2021, 08:28 PM

Schools facing critical race theory battles are diversifying rapidly, analysis finds

Downingtown, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, has been changing. And the school district has tried to change with it.

In 1994, students of color made up just 5 percent of the enrollment in the Downingtown Area School District. By 2020, that figure had grown to almost 24 percent, largely because of an increase in Asian and Latino residents.

In the last few years, the district hired a diversity coordinator, launched a cultural equity task force and began to study racial disparities in how students are placed in advanced classes. The district made Diwali an official school holiday this year, and in the spring held a listening session for people of Asian descent to discuss racism they had experienced.

But all of these measures suddenly came under attack this summer, when dozens of parents signed a petition calling for the end of Downingtown’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Parents and local Republican groups questioned why Downingtown schools needed a diversity coordinator at all, citing the schools’ high graduation rates and the lack of high-profile hate crimes in the community. Several parents labeled the diversity efforts “social engineering” and racist at school board meetings.

Downingtown is one of at least 220 school districts in the U.S. that faced a backlash over diversity and equity initiatives from May through August, according to NBC News’ tracking of media reports. And student enrollment data suggests that these conflicts tend to occur in communities that experienced significant demographic shifts in recent decades.


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