Niles Township High Schools District 219 mandated equity events for students; mandated staff to participate and provide equity presentations to students


Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to the Niles Township High Schools District 219 seeking documents and emails regarding equity events held for students earlier in 2024. Through emails obtained from this records request, PDE found that these events were called “Unity Summits.” The first took place on April 17 at Niles North High School. The second took place on May 1 at Niles West High School after appearing to be delayed.

The district provided PDE with emails about the events from the district’s chief equity officer La Wanna Wells. In an email of frequently asked questions about the events, she stated that the Unity Summits were mandatory for students: “It is the first time where all students will come together to learn about equity collectively at each D219 school.” The summits were for “all students to increase their Awareness, Empathy, and feelings of Solidarity for themselves and others.” She added that the events would occur on attendance days for students.

School staff were also required to participate: “Every staff member is expected to assist with the Unity Summit as a Presenter and with other assigned duties.” Students were additionally required to “attend a Keynote that teaches students how to apply equity.”

PDE also received a presentation from the district’s Unity Summits titled “Cultural and Identity Activities Clubs Update.” The presentation appears to have been created in preparation of the events. The presentation includes a quote from former President Woodrow Wilson stating: “We cannot be separated in interest or divided in purpose. We stand together until the end.” Wilson is widely considered one of the most racist presidents in American history. This presentation states that “participating clubs will have additional funds to support after school breakout events.”

Students were required to participate in four workshops, according to the presentation. One was required by the schools with students able to choose the other three. A goal of the Unity Summits was to “support students towards a united mindset.”

The district provided PDE with a document titled “K-12 Anchor Standards and Domains” used to create the basis of the Unity Summits. The district specifically intends for students to focus on their identity: “Students will develop positive social identities based on their membership in multiple groups in society.” The district also intends for students to “develop language and historical and cultural knowledge that affirms and accurately describes their membership in multiple identity groups.”

The district also has several goals in this document to turn students into political activists for perceived “social justice”:

  • Students will recognize unfairness on the individual level (e.g., biased speech) and injustice at the institutional or systemic level (e.g., discrimination).
  • Students will analyze the harmful impact of bias and injustice on the world, historically and today.
  • Students will recognize that power and privilege influence relationships on interpersonal, intergroup and institutional levels and consider how they have been affected by those dynamics.
  • Students will identify key figures and groups, seminal events and a variety of strategies and philosophies relevant to the history of social justice action and history around the world.
  • Students will recognize their own responsibility to stand up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.
  • Students will speak up with courage and respect when they or someone else has been hurt or wronged by bias.
  • Students will make principled decisions about when and how to take a stand against bias and injustice in their everyday lives and will do so despite negative peer or group pressure.
  • Students will plan and carry out collective action against bias and injustice in the world and will evaluate what strategies are most effective.