DEI is growing in prevalence in American culture and business, but what is it? DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Each organization might define these differently, but broadly, this is the type of work that helps to mend a society that has been hurt by discrimination, racism, sexism, ableism, and prejudice. While most of the private sector has added a DEI position or department, public education is an area that is sadly still lagging. Particularly in light of the last two years’ very wrong conversation about Critical Race Theory, many schools don’t want to touch DEI with a ten-foot pole.
You, however, can be the change. If you are personally doing the work of anti-racism, cultural competence, and inclusion (which is about so much more than race) and want to see your child’s school do the same, here are some ways to go about it.
First, don’t demand anything of the school. Educators are burnt out, confused, hurt, and bombarded with hate and critique from the public about all the things. Please don’t go to any school with a list of demands – we just can’t take it.
You can, however, ask questions and offer your support.
Start by finding out if there are already DEI-related initiatives happening in the school district.
You never know what committees or clubs might be happening that you’re just not aware of. Is there a person or committee at the district level leading DEI work? Are there student clubs or groups around topics of anti-racism, diversity, disabilities and inclusion, or culture? Does the school library have a wide selection of books that feature non-white and differently-abled human characters? Does the school acknowledge only the most mainstream holidays? In what ways do they acknowledge holidays of non-dominant groups?
To find these things out, ask your principal, school board, superintendent, and PTA. If there are none, express why you think this work should be happening and how it could benefit students. Again, please come from a place of warmth and support.
Next, offer to help.
We want to be solution-oriented. Are there books you can donate to the school collection, or to your child’s classroom? Can you help plan an event?
If you want to get at more systemic, long-lasting change…
Start to lobby your school board for a DEI coordinator position at the district level. This person can work with all of the schools in a district and support staff education, curriculum, and students. This will take time, but it’s worth your effort! I’ve seen it happen in my own school district and we are the better for it.
Bonus: Are you an educator or do you have a trusted contact at the school? If so, here’s an opportunity you can share with them. My Cultural Competence Club received grant funding to send “Start Your Own C3” kits with other schools around the state (country? world?). If you work at a school or have a close friend who does, check out this letter.