The East Williston Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, April 25 was an almost six-hour long event that was dominated by discussions of diversity, equity and inclusion after two Project Veritas videos were released earlier this year showing local administrators discussing the topic.
The Board of Education and the district administration began by putting forth a two-hour presentation on how diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are implemented in the East Williston School District and how they align with the state Education Department Learning Standards.
Several teachers and administrators presented how DEI was woven into lesson plans in their respective subjects. This came as a response to a petition that was signed by over 500 parents calling for increased curriculum transparency.
The board also invited a member of the Nassau County Police Department to present on school safety initiatives – especially as it relates to school shooter scenarios.
When it came time for public comment, many parents came up to the microphone to offer their opinion on DEI initiatives in the school district and other related issues.
Several were angry about the assignments and lesson plans being introduced to their children. Many argued DEI policies are divisive and actually teach children to view humans as grouped into categories.
One of the first parents to speak asked the board if they could point to research showing DEI initiatives work, and another argued that the presentation on diversity, equity and inclusion in the classroom was not what the parents asked for when they said transparency and instead it was merely a time-wasting tactic.
“I tried to find my own evidence [that DEI initiatives work],” one mother said. “What I found was many articles stating that these programs do more harm than good … The researchers concluded that when people divide into categories to illustrate the idea of diversity, it reinforces the idea of categories.”
The parents also said the board made decisions behind closed doors, did not communicate effectively and should be more transparent in their hiring practices.
However, others were appreciative of the way the district was focusing on DEI and incorporating it into the curriculum.
One parent, who has a neuro-divergent child, said the content he was learning in school opened the door for them to have productive conversations on topics they otherwise wouldn’t have.
“I felt like I was empowered, because I knew then that that conversation – to some extent – had happened in school in a very informative way, that wasn’t driving any, you know, agenda, but that was actually trying to help my child understand that we live in a diverse world where people have different values, where people, you know, come from different backgrounds,” the mother said.
Another woman was almost brought to tears discussing the history of racial inequalities on Long Island and how it is still prevalent in today’s society, and she called for increased diversity among school staff – particularly in higher-up positions.
At one point, two women had a back-and-forth exchange that escalated in volume and Board President Mark Kamberg threatened to adjourn the meeting.
The Board of Education and district administration did their best to respond to community members’ questions but could not answer them all at that time.
After an hour and a half of parent comments, the clock read 1:30 a.m. and the meeting wrapped up for the night.