These Indiana schools made racial equity their mission. Now they face hostile legislation.

Indiana lawmakers spent months this year debating censoring lessons that deal with racial identity and racism, deeming them “divisive.” Republican leaders, falling in line with the conservative movement across the country, didn’t want teachers to discuss Black Lives Matter, institutional racism, white privilege, or unconscious bias.

Those politicians were fighting on behalf of a vocal contingent of parents in mostly white suburban districts who protest against diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts out of concern that they unfairly malign white people. They often say they’re trying to ban critical race theory, an academic concept taught in law schools that examines how racism is embedded in society and government.

But for racially diverse schools such as Bethel Park Elementary in Indianapolis, the legislative battles threaten to interrupt years of work to better serve marginalized students. Proposed laws sought to prohibit racial equity training for teachers, which highlights how systemic racism persists and shows teachers how to recognize their own biases. Educators devoted to this work fear that silencing conversations on race could whitewash lessons and alienate students of color.

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