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Penn-Delco School District Approves Diversity Committee After Sparking Controversy With Board Member

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Penn-Delco School District is embracing the challenge of creating an inclusive environment for students. The effort was met with controversy and it all came to a head at a big meeting Wednesday night.

Eight ayes and one nay — the ayes have it.

The Penn-Delco School District will have a diversity, equity, and inclusion steering committee, but it won't be called that after its name sparked controversy with one board member.

"I have a colleague who would advise me some time ago, he said, 'George, don't use the words diversity, inclusion, equity if you can avoid it.' Kids are OK with it but some adults still aren't comfortable with it, and I was naïve, honestly. I thought that we were past those days," George Steinhoff said.

The committee will now be called the Penn-Delco Cares Committee.

A petition was started in favor of a committee after it was brought to light there was little to no diversity in the school district's staffing.

Over the last few days, the topic became controversial after board member Lisa Esler expressed her objection to the committee.

"I've seen the most absurd and patently false material on this topic, on this simple agenda topic that's been on social media, blogs, I mean, you name it," Steinhoff said.

Esler did not comment on the committee during Wednesday's board meeting, but she did send Eyewitness News a statement based on her rationalization.

She says she would like people to "stop branding our students according to their color or race. Stop pandering to a political agenda to keep up with the Jones' and push back on those who are hijacking our schools. I am only one person. Parents to start speaking up, band together and stand up for their kids."

Those who spoke during the public comment portion all seemed to be in favor of the new approved committee.

But now, some parents are now calling for Esler to step down.

"I ask for the resignation of Ms. Esler immediately," one parent said.

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