DENVER – Niwot High School is preparing to hold its first Diversity Day, but critics say a better name for it would be Indoctrination Day.
The Boulder Valley high school is replacing its regular curriculum Wednesday with a full day of workshops designed to help students understand “diverse topics,” according to the schedule. At the end of the required sessions, students attend a “debriefing session” to discuss what they have learned.
Most of the 47 Diversity Day workshops have uncontroversial titles like “Indian Cooking,” “Life with Cerebral Palsy,” and “Pilipino Culture.” But others, including “Gender Identity,” “Immigration Issues,” “Understanding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Myths,” and “Power and Privilege and the Cycle of Opportunities,” have alarmed conservatives, who worry that the school is actually offering a crash course in left-wing political ideology.
“I think it’s total indoctrination,” said KOA-AM talk-show host Michael Brown, who has dogged the school and district for more information on the event. “And they’ve tried to hide these politically correct workshops in between these innocuous-sounding classes on the Bonfils Blood Center or Indian dance.”
A memo sent home with students calls the event “a wonderful opportunity for your child to learn about diverse topics,” and says that the Longmont City Council helped obtain speakers for the workshops.
Brown accused school organizers of attempting to keep parents and the community in the dark. He noted that the schedule wasn’t posted online until Monday night, just two days before the April 4 event. The memo to parents only mentions three of the least controversial workshops:
“The African-American Experience,” “Languages of the World,” and “Indian Dancing.”
Parents were not told in advance which workshops their children had been assigned to attend. In the memo, those who want to know their children’s schedules in advance are instructed to send an email to the guidance counselor in charge of the event. There is no “opt-in” provision–parents who don’t want their students to participate in Diversity Day must take action to opt out by returning the form.
“I believe they’re trying to get this under the radar,” said Brown. “There are probably 1,500 to 1,800 students at Niwot High School. The counselor is operating under the assumption that 1,500 parents don’t care what their children are attending.”
Brown said he tried unsuccessfully to obtain copies of the materials that would be presented, but a glance at the presenters offers some hints. The session on “Gender Equality” lists as the speaker Aicila Lewis, executive director of OutBoulder, a gay-rights group.
Mauricio Shoup, OutBoulder program director, said he and Lewis planned to offer “an enriching message that focuses on encouraging curiosity and respect.” While OutBoulder speakers have appeared at school assemblies, he said, this is the first time they’ve spoken at a school devoting an entire day to diversity.
“I think it’s magnificent, and way overdue,” said Shoup. “I commend Niwot High School for taking the step and doing this, especially since a lot of schools aren’t quite there yet.”
Another session, “Immigration Issues,” lists Erika Blum and Sonya Marquez as the presenters. Blum is a leader of Voices of Immigrant Children for Education and Equality, the Boulder arm of the national group Reform Immigration for America.
In 2010, she lobbied the city of Boulder to suspend all travel to Arizona following the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which requires police to check the residency status of suspected illegal immigrants. In an article in the Boulder Daily Camera, she calls the law “codified racism.”
Said Brown: “You know that workshop is going to be one-sided.”
Former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, a national leader in the border-security movement, said he would have been pleased to offer another point of view on immigration at Diversity Day.
“If the school district was really interested in diversity, they would invite me to discuss immigration,” said Tancredo in an email. “After all, there is little difference between the pro-open borders propaganda they will get from [Blum] and the slop their teachers feed them every day.”
A call to the St. Vrain Valley School District was not returned Tuesday. The district has struggled financially, and the school board is considering asking voters to approve a tax increase in the form of a mill-levy override in November, according to the Longmont Times-Call.
Ben DeGrow, senior education policy analyst at the free-market Independence Institute, said the school and students would have been better served by asking parents to “opt in” for Diversity Day.
“Students and parents have reason to be concerned because the political orientation of the workshops all seems to be slanted in one direction,” said DeGrow. “They may be sharing some sorts of diversity, but not intellectual or philosophical diversity.”