Championing DEI Is Worth the Personal Cost

Type: Article
Topics: Equity, Rural Communities, School Administrator Magazine

June 01, 2022

My View

While several state departments of education have developed work plans for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives for schools, it is up to individual school districts to make these plans a reality through local policies and practices.

Unfortunately, championing this cause may carry a personal cost. Recently many of my superintendent colleagues and I have come under criticism by community members who view attention to diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, as a Trojan horse that will unleash untold harm on students. As the superintendent of a small, rural school district near Albany, N.Y., I have been called everything from a Marxist to a child abuser by critics. I have been on the receiving end of petitions that call for me to be fired.

As uncomfortable as it is to weather this invective, it is nowhere near as unpleasant as it is to live in the skins of our most marginalized students.

The anti-DEI movement in social media succeeded in conflating our work to address these needs with critical race theory, or CRT, a half-century-old branch of legal scholarship recently popularized in right-wing media. Those following this reasoning contend that DEI equals CRT and CRT is evil. By the transitive property, DEI is evil.

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James Niedermeier


Duanesburg Central School District in Delanson, N.Y.