SEWICKLEY, Pa. (KDKA) -- Sewickley Academy is a prestigious private school ensconced in one of the region's wealthiest communities, but it is becoming a flashpoint in the national debate over race and education.
The sudden dismissal of four administrators and one teacher — each one committed to a strategic diversity plan — has kindled the controversy over the teaching of the impact of race and discrimination in historical events. Parents say it's creating division.
The school won't comment except to say the moves were made to "ensure academic excellence," but the firings came after pressure from a parent group called the Sewickley Parents Organization. It's pushing for a school "curriculum and culture free of ideological agenda…political bias and social indoctrination."
Although the school does not teach critical race theory, the school has severed ties with outgoing head of school Kolia O'Connor, who had adopted a strategic plan called EnVision 2024 calling for equity, inclusion and social justice initiatives.
Ashley Birtwell has replaced him on an interim basis. But a spokesperson for a group now calling itself Concerned Sewickley Parents said they'll meet with Birtwell next week to demand the administrators' reinstatement.
"The firings were retaliatory against anyone in support of diversity in education and plans to attract recruit and retain people of color. We're concerned about the impact this will have on the teaching of history and race. We are concerned that this is a hostile environment and our students will be ostracized," the group said.
Now, this appears to be part of the growing national debate over the teaching of critical race theory — a view of history seen through the lens of racial discrimination and its impact. Under the former head of school, some parents expressed concern about the current curriculum.
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