After controversy, Lewiston council will vote to ‘reaffirm’ diversity, equity and inclusion work – Lewiston Sun Journal

after-controversy,-lewiston-council-will-vote-to-‘reaffirm’-diversity,-equity-and-inclusion-work-–-lewiston-sun-journal

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LEWISTON — The City Council will vote on a resolution Tuesday reaffirming the city’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, after two councilors previously drafted a resolution that condemned optional diversity programs for Lewiston school staff.
The resolution in front of the council Tuesday, written by Councilor Scott Harriman, states “as a City Council we must acknowledge, respect and learn from the lived experiences of all our constituents.” It lays out Lewiston’s previous work to address equity, including a citywide equity statement that was adopted by the council in 2021.
The council discussion comes a week after a draft resolution from councilors Lee Clement and Rick Lachapelle was made public through a Sun Journal Freedom of Access Act request, prompting criticism of its content and ethical questions over how it was created.
The councilors planned to keep the resolution confidential until they could suspend City Council rules to introduce a vote on it — giving fellow councilors minutes to read and consider it — but declined to move forward after administration and the city’s diversity, equity and inclusion director disapproved of the resolution.
Several councilors and the mayor said they saw the resolution only after the Sun Journal conducted the Freedom of Access Act request.
The resolution is called “A resolve to promote parental rights and denounce certain teachings in Lewiston Public Schools.” It says Lewiston schools appear to be having discussions about “establishing curriculum” based on ideas from organizations, including the Educators of Color Collective and Building Anti-Racist White Educators. It says the groups align with ideologies “that many believe are distilled from Critical Race Theory, the 1619 Project and similar things which contain radical thinking.”

School officials said the programs are optional after-school affinity groups for teachers who have been active for two years, and that they are not part of curriculum building.
Superintendent Jake Langlais said critical race theory, which centers on the idea that racism is ingrained in U.S. social institutions and laws, which leads to different outcomes by race, is not a part of Lewiston schools’ approved student curriculum.
Both Clement and Lachapelle told the Sun Journal that they began work on the resolution after several constituents approached them with concerns about the “direction of the school system,” and that previous concerns raised to school officials were not addressed.
“In this instance our intent was to draft a document that would present the School Committee with the concerns we had heard and had learned about,” Clement said.
Harriman’s resolution in response lists several council actions since 2020, including the formation of an ad hoc committee on equity and diversity, as well as the subsequent adoption of a city equity statement, diversion, equity and inclusion “vision statement,” and diversion, equity and inclusion “mission statement.”
The equity statement, adopted in April 2021, begins by stating, “The City of Lewiston is committed to equity. Through intentional, continuous reflection and action, the City and our community systems — including education, employment, health care, housing, law enforcement, businesses and beyond — are dedicated to addressing and dismantling systems of inequity while working together to build resilient and accessible communities where people of all cultures and identities can thrive. We acknowledge that without an intentional focus on equity, we will continue to perpetuate and deepen inequality, injustice and harm.”
The city hired its first director of diversity, equity and inclusion, a Human Resources position, in August 2021.
In a written response to councilors Clement and Lachapelle regarding their draft resolution, Melissa Hue, the diversion, equity and inclusion director, said she “wrote, rewrote and tried to empathize with the sentiments you wish to convey, but said, “I could not. All I could muster was a weak attempt to temper the visible implicit bias of your resolution to the public.”

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