(Press Release) Congresswoman Elise Stefanik announced that, following her advocacy, DoDEA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Chief Kelisa Wing has been removed from her position in military children’s schools, after using her position to promote her woke ideologies through her personal writings.
Stefanik announced this during her questioning of Gilbert R. Cisneros, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, at today’s subcommittee hearing on the impact of DEI Policies, Procedures, and Trainings within the DoD.
Stefanik has been leading the charge to create transparency in our DoDEA schools. Following Stefanik’s advocacy, DoD opened an investigation into Wing in September. The Pentagon referred to Under Secretary of Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros for a final decision 30 days after the initial review, but Stefanik had not received an answer until three hours before today’s hearing.
From the DOD Letter:
. . . . In September 2022, the Official Performing the Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs examined alleged statements made by a DoDEA employee on the employee’s social media account as published in a September 14,2022 online media publication. The Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs determined the employee was speaking in a personal capacity; that the comments were posted on the employee’s personal social media account; and that workplace colleagues who were interviewed had not witnessed the employee make the same comments within the workplace.
As a result, the Director, DoDEA took no disciplinary action. Federal ethics rules permit employees to express personal views when doing so does not create the appearance that the views expressed arc those of the employee’s agency or arc prohibited by the Hatch Act or other laws. The Director, DoDEA concluded that it was appropriate for the employee to continue working for DoDEA. Separately, as part of a headquarters restructuring, the employee was reassigned to another position that does not include diversity, equity, and inclusion-specific responsibilities. . . .
Highlights from Rep. Stefanki’s questioning include:
Stefanik began her line of questioning by asking Mr. Cisneros if he was familiar with a tweet on the screen by former DoDEA DEI Chief Kelisa Wing. Stefanik then requested Mr. Cisneros read it out loud.
She then pressed, “Do you agree with this Mr. Cisneros?”
Cisneros agreed by saying, “I do agree that this is not acceptable. It is not condoned. It is not something that I condone. It is not condoned by DoDEA or the Department of Defense.”
Stefanik followed up by saying, “When I raised this issue, in fact, I wrote a letter to the Department on September of last year and did not receive a response. It was only when I wrote a follow up letter on November of last year that we did finally get a response in December, stating the Department was conducting an inquiry into this matter. Today, six months after that initial inquiry, you responded three hours prior to this hearing, which is a trend for Biden Administration officials at the last minute scrambling before these hearings, claiming that you determined Ms. Wing was speaking in a ‘personal capacity’ and that her colleagues never heard her make similar comments while at work.”
“However, interestingly, in the letter, it also states that she has been transferred as a part of headquarters restructuring and was reassigned to another position that does not include diversity, equity, and inclusion-specific responsibilities, and I have a feeling that has to do with the fact that we have shined light on this.”
Stefanik then asked, “Will you commit to making the review and the findings publicly available to Congress and to servicemembers?”
After Cisneros made excuses for the delay in the letter, he claimed staff was available to talk about this topic.
Stefanik pushed back by stating the fact that there was no response to the letter when she was promised a 30-day review from September and followed up on her question, “Don’t cover up for the trend of the Biden Administration. This is the second hearing in two weeks where the response to the letter delayed is given the day of or the day before the hearing. Will you make the findings publicly available to Congress and to servicemen and women?”
Cisneros deflected by saying, “Ms. Wing is a GS [General Schedule] employee. She is not a senior executive. There are personal restrictions that we have to follow, but we will look into the matter to see what can be shared.”
Stefanik made clear that she is requesting that and continued her questioning by asking, “Have you read Kelisa Wing’s books, titled What is White Privilege?, What Does it Mean to Defund the Police?, and What is the Black Lives Matter Movement”
Cisneros stated that he had not read those books.
Stefanik followed up by asking, “Are you aware that these books are in DoDEA’s K-12 schools throughout the country?”
Cisneros answered, “I can’t say with certainty. I do not know if they are in those libraries or if they have been.”
Stefanik asserted, “They are. Do you think that’s appropriate?”
Cisneros responded, “I don’t know for a fact if they are.”
Stefanik again said, “I am telling you they are…You should know, you are a DoD official…One reason you should know that is in her own presentation as a DoD employee at a DoDEA summit, she stated, ‘My passion work is dismantling disparate discipline systems, and I am hugely passionate about dismantling the school to prison pipeline, I have written a book [called] Promises and Possibilities Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline— shameless plug.’ That’s her words.”
“While conducting her official duties as a DoDEA employee, she advertised not only her personal social media accounts, which included this tweet, her personal websites, and she advertised her personal books. Are you aware this is illegal for employees to advertise and promote their personal books that they will profit off of those sale?”
Cisneros doubled down on the excuse that it was her personal book on her personal time, but failed to realize that she presented this and promoted her book at a DoD summit as a DoD official.
Stefanik reiterated, “She stated that this is a shameless plug for her book. Is that illegal? And is that appropriate?”
Cisneros claimed he was not aware but would look into it and get back.
Stefanik replied, “You seem to not know a lot of what is happening in your department…My expectation is that we will continue educating you on what is happening in the Biden Administration’s Department of Defense, but this is absolutely unacceptable. We expect that report.”
Stefanik concluded, “I will take it as a result that we delivered. She should have been fired completely, but she was at least moved somewhere else, not dealing with our kids’ educational systems.”
When Stefanik heard concerns from parents regarding DoDEA schools teaching radical gender ideologies with DoDEA training materials, Stefanik introduced a Servicemember Parents Bill of Rights, which reinforces that servicemembers with children in DoDEA schools have the right to be involved in their children’s education, while increasing transparency and accountability in DoDEA schools.
In September, Stefanik and Congressman Franklin demanded answers from the Pentagon regarding troubling statements made by Wing. Following this advocacy, the Department of Defense, through the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, announced they were launching a 30-day review of Wing and her racist, woke posts. In November, they followed up with Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin requesting an update on the findings of the review, and had not received an answer until three hours prior to today’s hearing.