Gov. Cox, Utah lawmakers form a working group on diversity and inclusion for K-12 education

Utah leaders announced the creation of a new working group that will focus on diversity and inclusion in classrooms on Monday. The announcement was held at the southwest corner of the Utah State Capitol — near the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. plaque.

"There is strength in our diversity," Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement about the bipartisan task force. "I look forward to working with this group to find ways to ensure every child in every school feels valued and respected."

Multiple elected officials will create a working group to incorporate a diversity curriculum in K-12 schools throughout the state, according to a news release from the Utah House of Representatives. The Utah Diversity and Inclusion Commission will be chaired by House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Schultz, Rep. Sandra Hollins, Sen. Kirk Cullimore and Sen. Luz Escamilla. The task force will include not only lawmakers but educators and community leaders as well.

"In an effort to create a Utah we can all be proud of, we are setting out on a pathway to incorporate a diversity and inclusion curriculum in our K-12 education system," Schultz said in a statement. "As a bipartisan group, we will take a balanced approach and work hand-in-hand to better understand and find ways to create a brighter future for our children and grandchildren."

The group will work closely with the Utah State Board of Education to develop an appropriate curriculum for children, according to the statement.

"I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop possible solutions to assuring all our youth feel safe and welcome in our schools," Hollins said in the statement.

Cullimore and Hollins have been working on the legislation in order to make the working group a reality. The group will be formed during the 2022 Utah legislative session.

"As education continues to be a key equalizer for our state and country, the opportunity to help shape a comprehensive, inclusive curriculum — embracing the whole history and diversity of our state — is critical," Escamilla said in the statement. "The opportunity to bring forward a variety of perspectives, working towards this goal, makes this an exciting moment."

The announcement of the group comes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a celebration of the civil rights icon's life and legacy. Numerous events around the state commemorated King's life, including marches in Ogden and Salt Lake City, as well as events held by local NAACP chapters.