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🏫 Pine-Richland roiled by culture wars

A large stone sign reading Pine-Richland School District

After we published our peek at the way local schools have reacted to the perceived threat of Critical Race Theory, parents in Pine-Richland School District got in touch about arguments taking place during the district’s board meetings. We followed up to track the birth and death of Pine-Richland’s DEI policy. Read on for a preview and a link to our full investigation.

In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, Pine-Richland School District began work on a policy to support marginalized students. Parents and students of color say such a policy would help improve a culture that had been harmed by incidents of racism, homophobia and other hate speech. Policy 832, adapted from a Pennsylvania School Boards Association template, was designed to support better data transparency around things like race and gender, and it would have required the district to create an equity action plan and create a pathway for hiring more diverse faculty. District leaders, parents of color and students contributed ideas to the draft policy.

Then came debates over masking, the firing of a popular football coach and grave allegations of sexual assault. The 2021 election cycle was marked by vitriol. A slate of four conservative school board candidates, funded in part by Paul Martino, a Bucks County venture capitalist, rode the wave of discontent into office, cementing a new 6–3 majority. The board soon made significant changes to Policy 832, cutting out language like “implicit bias” and “social justice.”

After months of back-and-forth, including hours-long arguments over the word “equity,” the conservative majority voted against bringing Policy 832 up for a read, effectively scuttling it for good. Parents who supported the policy were incensed, and the tension at school board meetings continues.

Check out our full investigation on PINJ’s website.

This collaboration was made possible through support from the Pittsburgh Media Partnership.