SALT LAKE CITY — State lawmakers used Martin Luther King Jr. Day to announce the creation of a commission tasked with researching and developing diversity and inclusion curriculum for Utah classrooms.
“I’m just really excited. I think this is the perfect day to make this announcement,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City.
Rep. Hollins is one of four co-chairs of the bipartisan Utah Diversity and Inclusion Commission.
Sen. Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City), Sen. Kirk Cullimore (R-Sandy) and Rep. Mike Schultz (R-Hooper) are the other co-chairs.
The commission was formed in response to several high-profile incidents of racism and intolerance in the state, including the death of Izzy Tichenor.
The 10-year-old Davis county girl died by suicide in 2021.
Izzy’s family claims she was bullied because of her race and the school district did not do enough to help in her time of need.
“She felt that was her only way out to face it,” Hollins said. “We don’t want any more children in our school system to have to face this.”
Gov. Spencer Cox spoke at the announcement ceremony that was held near a plaque honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He acknowledged this work needs to be done.
“While we have taken many steps forward as Dr. King asked us to, it feels like we have taken some steps backwards over the last couple of years,” Cox said. “What we have now is a real opportunity to come together — to listen and learn from each other.”
The commission hopes to create an environment where every student feels safe, welcomed and respected, while also presenting a variety of perspectives.
“It's going to be a very tough subject and it's going to be a difficult conversation, but it's one that’s long overdue and one we need to have,” Hollins said.
“We have to find common values,” Cullimore added.
There is no set timetable for the development of the curriculum.
The Utah State Board of Education will be involved in the process.