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Alabama governor signs bill prohibiting DEI programs at schools, state agencies

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(NEW YORK) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a sweeping bill that prohibits the use of state funds for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and offices at state agencies, higher education institutions and other public entities.

“My administration has and will continue to value Alabama’s rich diversity, however, I refuse to allow a few bad actors on college campuses – or wherever else for that matter – to go under the acronym of DEI, using taxpayer funds, to push their liberal political movement counter to what the majority of Alabamians believe,” Ivey said in a March 20 statement to news outlets.

The legislation was quickly criticized by civil rights and advocacy groups, arguing that similar policies impede on the freedom of speech.

“Today, the Alabama government has failed our children,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “The ongoing assault on diversity, equity, and inclusion is part of an anti-Black agenda that seeks to revert our nation back to a time where Black students and teachers were denied adequate access to the classroom. We refuse to go back.”

DEI, as defined by professionals in that field, is aimed at correcting inequities within an organization — this could include implementing accessibility measures for people with disabilities, correcting discriminatory hiring practices, addressing gender and racial pay inequities, anti-bias training and more.

The bill, SB129, would also “authorize certain public entities to discipline or terminate employees or contractors who violate this act.”

The bill also prohibits certain public entities “from promoting, endorsing, or requiring affirmation of or certain divisive concepts relating to race, sex, or religion,” “conditioning enrollment or attendance in certain classes or training on the basis of race or color” and will require higher education institutions to ensure that “multiple occupancy restrooms are designated for use based on biological sex.”

The legislation is the most recent effort in an ongoing conservative-backed movement to restrict programs, curriculum and activities that tackle race, gender, sex, and more.

Similar bills, including Florida’s Stop WOKE Act which restricts race-related teachings and training in schools, have faced legal challenges that have limited the impact of these policies.

The Alabama law goes into effect on Oct. 1, 2024.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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