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Breaking News Alert This Week In Lawfare Land: 'Deadly Force'

DOD Deceives Military Parents, Doubles Down On DEI Initiatives In K-12 Schools

A new Open the Books report details how the Pentagon allegedly dissolved its DEI department only to secretly create a ‘DEI Steering Committee.’


The Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA), which administers the education of nearly 70,000 children of the nation’s military personnel, can’t seem to shake the agency’s culture of secrecy and deception, according to a breaking report published by Open the Books last week. The report details how the agency deceived Congress by claiming to disband its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) department, while actually doubling down on embedding DEI initiatives into every aspect of the organization.

When auditors from Open the Books sought answers via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, DODEA denied or heavily redacted requests for basic information. Auditors learned that DODEA Director Tom Brady was part of a newly-formed DEI Steering Committee, and when they inquired about the names of those who sit on the Steering Committee, they were told the names were unavailable.

Another FOIA request for electronic calendar invitations for Steering Committee events yielded documents that “were so redacted that they were functionally unusable: all non-executive names on the calendar invitations were redacted, along with all meeting descriptions. Dates for the meetings were revealed, however, so auditors can confirm the meetings are on-going.”

[READ: DOD Is Forging A Woke K-12 Army With Race And Sex Indoctrination In Military Schools]

But Open the Books auditors are not the only ones being shut out by DODEA. Members of Congress who have oversight of the agency have faced the same treatment. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter to Brady in 2020 asking for information about “alleged wasteful travel spending” on the taxpayer dime. Grassley had been investigating DODEA since 2018, and he revealed that his staff had waited for months in the past for responses from the agency.

Additionally, after learning of teacher-facilitated secret so-called gender transitions at overseas schools, former Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in 2021 asking the following questions:

What is the Department of Defense’s formal policy and guidance to DODEA teachers regarding gender transitions of students? Please provide a copy of the policy and/or guidance.

Does DODEA require teachers to obtain verbal or written parental consent before changing the names and pronouns of students? If not, please provide the reasoning why parental consent is not required.

She never received an answer.

Redacted and Rejected

I, too, as the parent of a former DODEA student, asked via FOIA in February 2023 for “any policies or other administrative documents that relate to transgender or non-binary students that are currently in effect at DoDEA schools.” The response I received stated that DODEA does not have a specific policy but that it “adheres to all applicable Federal law and regulations, Executive Orders, and DoD policies on inclusion of ‘gender identity’ as protected under the class of ‘sex.’” They informed me that 38 pages that related to my search were being withheld. I appealed the decision and am still awaiting a response.

Rep. Elise Stefanik’s Servicemember Parents Bill of Rights became law with the signing of the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It was a response to parent reports of the presence of critical race theory, obscene books, and gender ideology in DODEA schools. The Claremont Institute’s report, Grooming Future Revolutionaries, gave specific examples of such material from an official DODEA teacher training.

The National Education Association (NEA), which is the parent organization of the Federal Education Association at overseas schools, sent a letter to Senate Democrats asking them to oppose the bill of rights, claiming it was unnecessary and “ignores the healthy communication and interaction between educators and parents that already exist in DODEA schools, where educators are sensitive to maintaining an open dialogue with parents because of the special challenges military-connected student face.”

This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. The communication and interaction between school and parents that I witnessed when my child attended a DODEA school was far from healthy.

As an example, a course was offered to my daughter called “Challenge and Empower.” It was to be a year-long class that was taught by a gifted and talented teacher who was to receive quarterly training. We were given a 30,000-foot view of the purpose of the course. I asked for specifics from the school and the district, but they only gave me general information. I still had no idea what would be taught.

I sent a FOIA request to headquarters, but the response I received said that the course had been discontinued after a year and there were no textbooks or materials responsive to my request. I appealed and am still waiting for a response. I submitted an additional request asking why the course had been canceled. In response, the agency sent me heavily redacted emails with almost no usable information — except that plans are in the works for a new and improved “Challenge and Empower” class.

What Can Congress Do to Overhaul a Broken Institution?

DODEA is not open to questions from anyone with a stake in the organization, from Congress to parents. Though the problems run deep at DODEA and will likely take decades to overhaul, Congress has options at its disposal that could help in the short and long term. Congress could consider including provisions in the FY25 NDAA to provide education freedom to military families. 

In the past, legislative proposals to take funding for vouchers from Military Impact Aid have been strongly opposed by teachers unions and even some progressive military family associations. But voucher proposals, such as the bicameral Education Savings Account for Military Families Act by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, may be part of the solution — at least for families stationed in the United States.

For military children who attend schools overseas, Congress could craft a provision that would create education allowances similar to those received by the children of State Department personnel, which can be used at DODEA schools or for private or homeschool options. Another solution would be to modify the Non-DOD Schools Program, which DODEA already runs, that gives school vouchers to students who are outside of a DODEA school’s service area.

With education freedom, military families who want their children to attend DODEA schools overseas or public schools in the U.S. are free to do so. But the many families who have found the current options to be completely unacceptable, given the hidden agendas and complete lack of transparency, would be free to go elsewhere.

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