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DEI is here to Stay

Photo of children's hands together: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is Here to Stay

You can’t just ignore problems away.

In light of right wing and monied actors using DEI as a wedge issue to destroy K-12 public schools and higher education in general, it may be helpful to engage with what DEI exactly is, and why it has been implemented in educational settings across the nation.   

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is a paradigm that acknowledges that every person within its community is entitled to dignity and space to exist. Within public schools, DEI departments work to maintain a civilized school and organizational culture celebrating differences among students and staff. This enables students to access learning and makes them more likely to succeed; enabling teachers to best support students while encouraging staff retention at the same time.  

It is more than just implementing policies to center marginalized communities; DEI creates the capacity and opportunity where all can thrive and succeed in an increasingly intellectually interconnected global world. For a global society that is empathetic and can think critically about issues from different viewpoints and understandings will only benefit the greater good.  

Eliminate opportunity gaps and achieve excellence by providing access to schools, resources, and learning opportunities according to each student’s unique needs. - Equity, Arlington Public Schools

What exactly is “DEI” though?

In the simplest terms...

Why Do We Need a DEI Department?

But why do school systems need whole departments and staff to address issues of marginalization? DEI synergizes efforts between departments to foster achievement for all, not just for the majority, normative students. It would be difficult for even one person to manage all these efforts holistically. Amongst other roles, DEI departments work with (click on the arrow to expand for more information): 

Human Resources and Recruitment

DEI starts not just with diverse students, but also with hiring diverse staff who marginalized students can see themselves in. Representation matters and having role models that embody their own realities can foster student aspirations for their own futures. And in school, they can have a shared voice in advocacy for their communities 

But it’s just not for the marginalized. Exposure to diverse educators of all backgrounds helps ALL students develop interpersonal skills, emotional maturity, and empathy towards others. Challenging preconceptions about others based on prejudices and thinking deeply about the actual communities they live in, and all people that encompass it builds crucial critical thinking skills as they engage with diverse peoples and perspectives. 

Professional Development

Academic Support (particularly for lower performing students)

Curricula/Program of Studies

School Climate

Community-Based Learning

Other School-Based Department Coordination/Considerations

DEI Supports Each and Every Student to Succeed

For the naysayers that promote DEI programs as “bloat,” divisive and unnecessary… you just cannot ignore issues away. Differentiation between groups of students is not only academic; no student is alike and there will always be variation between and amongst them due to race, class or other marginalization. And reverting to the same (privileged) lens to solve structural issues… where has it left us? The same groups of children who have always fallen behind (even before the COVID-19 pandemic) will continue to fail. And why is race (and merit) brought up when people of color ascend to leadership positions, while for the truly privileged, even with low test scores, it’s just assumed they are qualified... and it does not stop them from reaching the top.   

I am not convinced those who want to eliminate DEI programs want all children to succeed. They only want theirs to hoard all the limited resources public schools possess. Eventually going to Ivy league schools will always and forever be reserved for the most privileged of our society.  

And as for school systems who embrace DEI, it must be more than just words. Can your system unequivocally say that their DEI policies and implementation of them is truly having the effect of lifting up marginalized children you work with every day? If not, it’s just a performative exercise without action. Your students deserve better.  

Anjy Cramer has a Certification in Cultural Competency, the precursor to DEI, from the University of Missouri. She has one child in Arlington Public Schools.

Previously, she has written a blog entitled Look Beyond SROs for Safe Schools for 4 Public Education, which she had translated into Spanish, Los SRO no son la Solución para Tener Escuelas Seguras, to ensure that more Northern Virginians could read it.


Sources and Additional Reading: 

Arlington Public Schools. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Accessed 14 January 2023. 

Clark, Jess. “DEI efforts in Kentucky K-12 schools at risk under proposed legislation.” Louisville Public Media. 9 January 2024. Accessed 13 March 2024. 

Cohen, Rebecca. “University of Florida Eliminates all diversity, equity and inclusion positions due to new state rule.” NBC News. 2, March 2024. Accessed 13, March 2024. 

Confessore, Nicholas. “‘America Is Under Attack’: Inside the Anti-D.E.I. Crusade." New York Times. 20, January 2024. Accessed 22 January 2024. 

DEI Legislation Tracker.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 18 January 2024. 

Educational Equity: What does it mean? How Do We Know When We Reach It?” Center for Public Education. January 2016. Accessed 14 January 2024. 

Fronius, Trevor, et al. “Restorative Justice in U.S. Schools: An Updated Research Review.”  WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center. March 2019. Accessed 14 January 2024. 

George W. Bush: Andover and Yale. World Biography: US Presidents. Accessed 18 January 2024. 

McGee,Kate & Ikram Mohamed. “As doors close and funding fades, students worry UT-Austin is taking Texas’ new DEI ban too far.” Texas Tribune. 26, February 2024. . Accessed 13, March 2024. 

Minahan, Jessica. “The behavior code companion: Strategies, tools, and interventions for supporting students with anxiety-related or oppositional behaviors.” 2014. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. 

Minahan, Jessica. “Trauma-Informed Teaching Strategies,” Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Vol. 77 No. 2. Oct. 2019.

National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). “Wraparound Services: Build Connections, Foster Partnerships, Educate the Whole Child.” March/April 2020. Accessed 14 January 2024. 

Opportunity Gap.” Close the Gap Foundation. Accessed 14 January 2024. 

Reuter, Courtney. “Implementing Social Emotional Learning with Fidelity: A School Improvement Plan,” Capstone Project, Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa. Summer 2023. Accessed 14 January 2024. 

Ruffin, Millicent. “Five reasons why all schools need DEI.” LinkedIn. 4, May 2023. Accessed 14 January 2024. 

School Climate.” SchoolSafety.Gov. Accessed 14 January 2024. 

Shores, Kenneth et. al. “Categorical Inequalities Between Black and White Students are Common in US Schools – But They Don’t Have To Be.” Brookings Institution. 21, February 2020. Accessed 14 January 2024. 

Staats. Cheryl. “Understanding Implicit Bias: What Educators Should Know.” American Educator, Winter 2015-2016. Accessed 14 January 2024. 

Tensley, Brandon. Claudine Gay’s Resignation: What’s at Stake for Black People. Capital B. 4, January 2024. Accessed 18 January 2024. 

What Is the School-to-Prison Pipeline?” ACLU. 2008 June 6. Accessed 14 January 2024. 

Will, Madeline & Ileana Najarro. “What Is Culturally Responsive Teaching?” 18 April 2022. Education Week. Accessed 14 January 2024.


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