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By Adam Andrzejewski of Open The Books Substack

In a Congressional hearing last spring, Gil Cisneros, then-Under Secretary for Military Readiness, announced that the Pentagon was closing its newly formed Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within its K-12 school system and reassigning its controversial DEI chief after a ten-month internal investigation.

The Pentagon’s climb-down was a big win for OpenTheBooks.com. We had worked alongside whistleblowers, journalists, other investigative non-profits, and ranking members of Congress to expose alleged conflicts of interest, violations of military ethics policies, and radical ideologies being forced on the kids of servicemen and servicewomen.

Today, we are announcing Cisneros was actually faking. The radical curriculum was not dismantled. Instead, it was stealthily embedded into the lesson plans and classrooms throughout the entire school system.

The Pentagon, under Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, is preventing details of their DEI policies from coming to light by abusing the Freedom of Information Act. They bamboozled the public with window dressing in Congressional hearings while forcing woke extremism on the roughly 70,000 children of our military service members.

It’s critical that taxpayers understand the scope of the DEI philosophy within the DoD’s schools – deployed servicemembers often have no alternative but to use the Pentagon-run school system, called the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).

Troubling Curriculum

DOD relentlessly promotes DEI-ideologies to school children of serving families through educational contractors with millions of dollars of taxpayer funding.

Here are some examples of what’s happening in the Pentagon’s schools:

  • Chat rooms to facilitate teacher-student conversations that are closed off to parents about sexuality and gender, and likely without their knowledge or consent.

  • Engaging four-year-olds in LGBTQ+ conversations. Elementary schools are the “perfect time” to “really show students the diversity of the gender expression and gender activity.”

  • Solidarity with the neo-Marxist Black Lives Matter organization to encourage teachers to “challenge our beliefs, examine our own biases, and reflect on how we need to evaluate the structures and systems in our classrooms.”

  • Video content on “dissent” and “equity” to “help educators facilitate classroom conversations and much-needed discussions about implicit bias and systemic racism, human rights, equity, social justice, dissent, protest, and empathy.” 

  • Marxist activism to dismantle systems of “power” and “privilege.” Suggesting a refusal to teach a “white-washed” curriculum and instead teach “social justice rather than heroes, holidays, and celebrations.”

  • A teaching handbook that recommends “critical conversations” with students about race, identity, and privilege and the way “injustice” affects our lives and society. These “explicit conversations” provoke “strong emotions” and crying students are expected.

Read the details about these vendors, their payments, and the full background dossier on our investigation here.

Our report on the Pentagon secretly institutionalizing DEI in its K-12 public schools

Transparency Problems

The Pentagon is assiduously attempting to hide its biased left-wing extremist curriculum from public view.  It is deleting public access to links, driving DEI infrastructure underground, and liberally redacting the most basic Freedom of Information Act requests.

For example, OpenTheBooks.com filed a FOIA request for the agency payroll just as we have at nearly 13,000 public schools across America. Stunningly, the DoDEA refused to disclose the individual salaries of its staff, unlike public schools nationwide and almost every other federal agency. No names, job titles, or compensation details on the $1.4 billion payroll.

It’s not just our organization having problems.

In September 2022, The Claremont Institute published a groundbreaking report on left-wing extremism in DoDEA classrooms, called “Grooming Future Revolutionaries.” The report highlighted content from dozens of video presentations from staffers at a 2021 “Equity and Access Summit” discussing what they were doing to turn schoolchildren into social justice activists.

Days later, all videos were taken down from the publicly available links and are no longer accessible. While the agency originally refused to release relevant documents via our FOIA request, we appealed, and the subsequent production confirmed that the videos were taken down in response to the report.

Last spring, at the Congressional hearing, Gil Cisneros announced that the Pentagon was dissolving the DoDEA’s DEI department and reassigning its chief. However, key documents we captured via FOIA suggest that DEI-ethos is still at the core of agency mission.

Here is what we were able to find out:

The Pentagon “integrated” DEI specialists into “four key divisions” in the agency last March while also launching a DEI Steering Committee. The committee is comprised of top executives including the agency’s CEO Thomas Brady, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Academic Officer, and twelve others.  

We sought more information on the steering committee, but our DoD redacted, or, “hid”: 1. member names; 2. agendas, materials, minutes and discussions; and 3. impact the committee is having on the whole education environment at the Pentagon.

The extent of these redactions is so ridiculous that almost every slide from the 14-page slide-deck presented at a committee meeting had been redacted except for the title page and a page defining DEI. 

The only non-executive staffer we can confirm attended these meetings is DEI Specialist Michelle Woodfork. See her redacted slide deck and calendar information here

Screenshot: A DoDEA staffer presentation on Discovery Education resources intended to teach children about social justice activism. Discovery Education received $2.4 million in contract spending from DoDEA since 2019 (see full presentation here). 

Key Quote

During the agency’s 2021 Equity and Access Summit, Woodfork made her devotion to the Pentagon’s DEI initiatives abundantly clear in her presentation:  

“When headquarters published their initiative for REDI [an earlier name for DEI at DoDEA] I got heart palpitations because it felt so affirming of the work I’ve been doing for so long.”

Woodfork’s presentation centered on her then-role as a principal at a Pentagon school, where she led “equity audits” on school materials and practices. 

The background and ideological orientation of Woodfork only underscores the need for the public and DoDEA parents to know who exactly is on this committee, and how much power they have over system-wide education.

Slide from Woodfork’s Equity and Access Summit presentation

Background

DoDEA made headlines in recent years for practices like hiding “gender transitions” from parents, forcing children into “difficult conversations” about race, class, gender, and sexuality, and the antics of a self-described “woke” Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion chief who allegedly hawked her own books to her colleagues.  

DoDEA’s focus on DEI, Thomas Brady said, is compelled by President Biden’s 2021 Executive Order 14035, which among other items charges all agencies with “assessing the current state of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility within their workforces.”

But even before EO 14035, Brady strived to inculcate DEI ideology at the agency, announcing on Juneteenth 2020 that DEI must be “embedded in everything we do.” 

In December 2024 the National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden. The law delineates “rights” for the parents of children attending DoDEA schools, authored by Representative Elise Stefanik (NY-21) which will go into effect in two years.

The parental rights include, among other items: 

  • The right to review the curriculum of the school 
  • The right to review all instructional materials used by their students 

While these measures are certainly progress for military families, much can still be obfuscated. Teacher training, such as the Equity and Access Summit, should be included as well. And it is not clear if the full spectrum of tools included, such as the secret LGBT chatrooms, would be disclosed as “instructional materials.”

Moreover, if extremist materials are disclosed, there does not seem to be a recourse for opting children out of these lessons.  

Slide defining the word privilege from Equity and Access summit presentation “REDI to Learn? Building a Common Language” by a DoDEA AVID instructor. The definition can also be found in materials provided during the presentation. Watch the full presentation here.

Conclusion

Secretary Austin and then-Under Secretary Cisneros devoted themselves to hiding their DEI bait-and-switch.

With the fanfare of a Congressional platform, Cisnero sought credit for shutting down DEI. But under our scrutiny, we found DoD instead made DEI a stealth weapon against the kids of our fighting men and women in service to an anti-American neo-Marxist ideology.

We have further found that DoD under Secretary Austin is leveraging public record laws to the hilt to prevent parents and the public from knowing details of its efforts, while spending millions of taxpayer dollars on objectionable content for school children.  

DoDEA did not dismantle its DEI efforts. It redoubled those efforts and added deceit and dissembling to its mix. 

Given DoDEA’s recent history and press regarding extremist content in schools, heads must roll, and the agency must provide full transparency of teaching methods and its DEI-related policy operations.

Parents, taxpayers, and the kids themselves deserve no less.  

Note: We reached out to DoDEA and all educator employees who were quoted or gave presentations as referenced in this article. If they are no longer employed by DoDEA, we couldn’t reach them. We will update our piece if we receive a response.

Furthermore, no employee or vendor is accused of any breach or violation of statute, military policy, or agency policy. In fact, they just might be abiding by agency rules or Biden’s executive order, if anything.

Will Griffin, DoDEA Director of Communications responded to our comment request:

DoDEA remains committed to maintaining a school system where military-connected students can excel and prepare for success in college and careers and where all employees are treated with dignity and respect. We will continue to comply with all applicable Federal laws, Department of Defense policies, and applicable executive orders.

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