Queens school district erupts in chaos when parents protest diversity plan : Code Switch In 2019, a school district in Queens N.Y., one of the most diverse places on the planet, is selected to go through the process of creating something unexpected: a diversity plan. Why would the school district need such a plan and why were some parents so adamantly opposed?

Why a 'diverse' school district erupted in chaos when chosen for a diversity plan

Why a 'diverse' school district erupted in chaos when chosen for a diversity plan

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Listen to School Colors on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

It all started with one ugly meeting.

The Community Education Council for School District 28 in Queens was used to its meetings being small and sleepy. But when they convened on a Thursday night in December 2019, the room was packed. Even more parents were left stranded in the hallway, demanding the meeting be rescheduled. Security wouldn't let them in because they said it was a fire hazard.

As soon as the meeting started, emotions began to run high. Parents started urgently slinging questions at the president of the council.

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So, what were all these people here for? And why were they so upset?

District 28 was selected by the city of New York to go through the process of creating something called a "diversity plan." But here's the thing: District 28 isn't just anywhere — it's smack dab in the middle of Queens.

Largely considered to be one of the most diverse places in the world, Queens is heralded by its residents for the multitudes of ethnicities, languages, cultures and ways of life that exist there. Some even refer to the borough as a "little United Nations."

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But diversity isn't the whole story, especially not in District 28. What you need to know is that there's a north side and a south side. To be blunt, the south side is Black. The further north you go, the fewer Black people you see.

This district is diverse. And it's segregated. Just like New York City.

Queens has always been a place of deep contradictions: opportunity and inequality, diversity and segregation, tolerance and fear. The story of District 28 puts those tensions on full display.

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For more than two years, hosts Max Freedman and Mark Winston Griffith have been investigating what led to this meeting and the clashes that unfolded after the diversity planning process was introduced. They spoke to more than a hundred people – parents, educators, historians and community leaders. What they found is a story about how race, class and power shape American cities and schools.

In the first episode of the series, we're going to walk you up to that ugly meeting that put a public spotlight on District 28. Because every year, more of the U.S. looks more like Queens. So what happens here feels like a preview of what's to come for the rest of the country.

Welcome to School Colors.

Listen to School Colors on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.