February 22, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

SMSD parents share concerns about ‘DEIB’ programs

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Shawnee Mission North High School teacher Caedran Sullivan last week exposed the widespread negative impact of the district’s DEIB indoctrination, and now parents are coming forward to confirm her experience and refute district officials’ attempt to dismiss her statements. 

“We are being manipulated and intimidated by a divisive ‘woke’ ideology that is creating a culture of contempt and disrespect,” Caedran Sullivan, an Advanced Placement English teacher at Shawnee Mission North High School, wrote in an op-ed for The Lion. 

The Lion — a publication of the Herzog Foundation — further reported that parents and others within the district are backing up her DEIB claims, even after she was attacked online and in a district board meeting, with one education bureaucrat claiming in a tweet that her op-ed was “full of lies.”

“Parent Elaine Cluff-Gleason certainly seems to know. She moved to the Shawnee Mission district outside of Kansas City in 2020 from her childhood home in Arizona, where she was a teaching intern in the Chandler area. She recalls undergoing the Corwin Deep Equity training there, which she and others recoiled from in revulsion.

“Cluff-Gleason had hoped to teach in SMSD. But the presence of the same Deep Equity training in SMSD that she was exposed to in Arizona prompted her to homeschool her son and even others’ children instead.”

According to the Corwin site, “The Deep Equity framework, based on the work of Gary Howard, helps schools and districts establish the climate, protocols, common language, and common goal of implementing culturally responsive practices necessary for equity in schools.”

It is the same program that the Sentinel found SMSD had spent more than $400,000 on in 2021.

The Chandler Unified School District in Arizona discontinued Deep Equity in 2020, according to The Precedent, which is the student newspaper of Perry High School in Chandler.

“Parent groups organized and teachers contacted human resources. Board meetings began to be characterized by tension and hostility as the upholstered seats at the district office became flooded with support and opposition. One retired English teacher from Desert Vista commented at a meeting that “I’m a taxpayer in CUSD and I’m afraid of what I have heard about this equity program.”

DEIB supporters plan protest against Sullivan

A screenshot of an online post provided to the Sentinel shows an apparent protest against Sullivan is planned by students for May 10.

“We need to speak out!!!” the post reads. “We should NOT allow such hateful, ignorant, and aggressive people be teachers (sic.) north is a predominantly POC school and she should not be allowed to slander something that affects almost everyone she teaches. the fact that this article has been out for weeks and the school has yet to release a statement along with her flaunting herself on live television is disgusting and needs to be talked about!!!” (all capitalization errors in original)

The screenshot ends with “if school board or SMN won’t do something about (sic) WE WILL!!”

Parents who support Sullivan say they plan a counter-protest to support her.

The Sentinel reached out to the school last week about the protest, asking if “inclusive” also included diversity of thought, if the school would acknowledge the phrasing could be construed as a threat, if the school was taking any steps to ensure Sullivan’s safety, and if the school believed this was an attempt to silence or intimidate Sullivan.

The only response from SMN Principal David Ewers was to say he had forwarded the email to SMSD Chief Communications Officer David Smith, who did not respond.

However, SMSD has apparently been feeling some pressure, as another email — obtained by The Sentinel — was prepared to go out on May 5, 2023.

“To Shawnee Mission North Staff Members, The following message will also be sent to SM North families momentarily. 

“As many of you are aware, Shawnee Mission North has been in the media over the past week. We want you to know that the opinions referenced in the media, which criticize the work at North around diversity, equity and inclusion, do not represent the beliefs and/or experience of the vast majority of staff who work at Shawnee Mission North, or the Shawnee Mission School district. In addition, those opinions misrepresent the work we are doing in the district around diversity, equity and inclusion. 

“Our Strategic Plan, created by the Shawnee Mission community, says that we will relentlessly create a fully unified, equitable and inclusive culture as one of our strategies to ensure that each student will have an individualized learning plan that will prepare them for college and career, with the interpersonal skills they need for life success. That is the work that is happening at Shawnee Mission North and other schools across the district, and we are proud of and committed to that work.

Nothing in the email to families addresses any of the concerns raised by Sullivan or others but does appear to be an attempt at damage control.  And by not denouncing the online post against Sullivan, Shawnee Mission demonstrates that it isn’t serious about its alleged devotion to inclusivity.

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