“DEI must DIE.” Elon Musk posted this simple message on X, formerly known as Twitter, for the world to see on December 15. Thankfully, it seems much of the world is agreeing with him.
According to Reuters report, “At least six major U.S. companies including JPMorgan Chase have modified [DEI] policies” and “are among 25 that received public shareholder letters since 2021 claiming their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs constitute illegal discrimination and a breach of the directors' duties to investors.”
Over the past week alone, public universities in both Oklahoma and Wisconsin learned that their DEI programs would be defunded or completely banned thanks to actions taken by elected state leaders. They follow similar prohibitions in Florida, Iowa, and Texas.
For those rightly concerned about the future of America’s social fabric and education systems, these are excellent developments. But real victory will not be achieved until reforms reach K-12 schools, where DEI policies have fundamentally transformed them from centers of learning and discovery into apparatuses of retribution, resentment, and shame.
Dressed in the language of fairness and harm prevention, DEI instead justifies overt discrimination and forced compliance based on immutable characteristics and the sins of forefathers. It reduces the individual to an avatar of his or her collective identity group.
Parents, educators, and citizens must recognize DEI for what it is, expose it, and demand an immediate cessation to its implementation in our schools.
Presented as the optimal way to close achievement gaps and improve the overall school environment, DEI instead conditions administrators, board members, teachers, and staff to openly embrace prejudice.
Judge a tree by the fruit it produces.
In Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky, the bias is noticeably clear in how it defines “diverse.” According to its racial equity policy, diverse is “pertaining to any and all cultures that are NOT heterosexual, male-centered, white, Western and/or Christian.” When the district runs programming for diverse students, or prioritizes hiring diverse staff, it is easy to picture who does not qualify.
“How to be Anti-Racist" author Ibram X Kendi illustrated this mindset when he wrote, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
Nothing should be seen as more sinister in a K-12 school context than the enthusiastic implementation of discrimination based on revenge. Yet, many districts have written equity policies that permit and encourage this vile practice.
In Virginia, Falls Church City Public Schools’ Equity Vision Statement declares that it is “Persistently, unapologetically, and consistently providing more time, attention, support, effort, resources, advocacy, and energy to those groups who have historically received less.” The district desires to undo historical discrimination by redistributing educational resources based on skin color, as well as the past treatment of groups.
In Vermont, Essex Westford School Districts’ equity policy states that it works “to recognize and undo the harm of centuries of systemic inequalities and oppression” and distribute “resources, power and decision making to marginalized groups or individuals in order to redress marginalization.” Defining privileged groups as predominantly white and male, the district has enshrined shame and retaliation in its official policy.
Experts in gaslighting, many K-12 schools have been tragically successful in convincing the public that inclusion is exclusion. Resurrecting evils reminiscent of the Jim Crow era, districts promote the long-discredited – and illegal – practice of segregation through race or ideologically based affinity groups.
Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee contracted with a consultant for $50,000 to facilitate an “educators of color” teacher affinity group. California’s Piedmont Unified School District has a program geared toward training kids to proselytize the “inclusive” practice of affinity groups and the celebration of collective identities, adding, “When we don’t acknowledge differences, we are centering whiteness.”
In New York, Rochester City Public Schools openly discriminate against Enlightenment values. It states in its Racial Equity Action Plan that the district will “work toward ensuring that all [district] educators will demonstrate fundamental understanding and commitment to valuing the importance of race and class consciousness.” The district includes these “fundamental understandings” in its hiring process as well. In Rochester, being inclusive means discriminating in favor of neo-Marxist thought.
Thankfully, each day more Americans are realizing the truth: that DEI policies are an abomination that encourage resentment and exact revenge on staff and children for the sins of the past. Discriminating based on race and sex was wrong in the past, it is wrong now, and it will be wrong in the future.
Now, K-12 education must seize the moment. School districts should follow the paths being taken by many corporations and state governments and eradicate DEI policies openly engaging in collective punishment and discrimination. All children deserve to be treated as the unique individuals they are.
Rhyen Staley is a researcher for Parents Defending Education. He holds a master's degree in elementary education and has over a decade of classroom experience in both public and private schools.