Human and Civil Rights Archives
New Fed Guidelines Highlight Rights of English Language Learners
New guidelines from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education are the first in nearly a decade to address the rights of English Language Learners, reminding public schools of their legal obligation to ensure ELL students have equal access to a high-quality education. The rights of English learners have emerged as a significant policy issue as the percentage of English learners in schools has increased. Read more...
New Year’s Resolutions for the Education Activist
The most popular New Year’s resolutions in the U.S.? Lose weight and eat healthier. No surprise there. But guess what else tops the list? “Volunteer to help others.” We’ve left the holidays behind but not the lesson that it’s even better—and more fun—to give than to receive. So we’re challenging you to one more resolution: Be a more active social justice advocate in 2015! Here are 10 tips to get you started on making this a better year for you, your students, and your community. Read tips...
Students' Lives Matter
Young people—our students—are marching in the streets and making noise on social media. They are standing up for Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown. They are standing up for themselves and, in the process, sowing the seeds of a new civil rights movement. When the Staten Island grand jury declined to indict in the tragic death of an another unarmed Black male, many students came the next day to our classrooms seeking answers and reassurance. As we help our students grapple with complex issues of race, opportunity, and justice, educators are continuing the dialogue:
Go here for lesson plans or resources to help you discuss racial profiling in an informed and honest way
Access the Diversity Toolkit for tools to help you teach and support diverse students.
Download the Restorative Practices Guide for strategies that help stem the disproportionate impact school discipline practices have on students of color.
We also want to learn from you. Share experiences from your classroom and community together with resources and actions that are advancing the dialogue and the movement.
Rising to The Challenge of the Ferguson Decision
The decision not to charge a police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed teen has reverberated through the nation, sparking a national debate about justice and civil rights. This is a troubling and confusing time for our students, and educators will do what they always do in a crisis: step up and put the needs of their students first. They’ll provide students with a safe place to talk about America’s founding values of equality and justice for all. They’ll remind them that America is a work in progress and that one day they will have an opportunity to make ours a more perfect union. Above all, they’ll nurture hope. Good people working together can bend the arc of history toward justice—Dr. King was right. The next generation of Americans can take on racial divisions and bury them deep in our native ground.
- In times of tragedy and uncertainty, schools serve as a place of normalcy for students. In response to the specific needs of educators for resources around the Ferguson shooting, NEA has developed materials to assist educators, parents, and the community as we continue our collective fight for social justice for all.
Immigration Reform One Step Closer
Educators are encouraged that millions of students and their families will be able to step out of the shadows and participate more fully in the lives of their schools and communities. President Obama’s recent announcement that he will take executive action to keep families together has given new energy to the immigration reform movement and new hope to aspiring Americans.
- Learn more about President Obama's recent announcement and watch a video message from NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.
- Teacher Joni Watson shares what the announcement means for her students.
Higher Rates of Poverty Among LGBTQ Americans
LGBTQ students will pay an unfair economic price over their lifetimes asserts a new report that links significantly higher rates of poverty among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans to discriminatory laws and customs. Read more . . .
Equal Footing for Schools
It’s no mystery America’s schools are widely unequal. If you’re fortunate enough to attend school in a well-heeled neighborhood, you’re more likely to have access to a rich curriculum, experienced educators, and state of the art facilities. Yet, 60 years after Brown v. Board, students with access are still far less likely to be minority, English Language Learners, or low-income. Now, educators and activists fed up with inequity have a new resource in their arsenal. The U.S. Department of Education has announced practical steps, in the form of a Dear Colleague letter and other guidance materials, to ensure America’s students—regardless of race, color, national origin, or zip code—have equal access to a high-quality public education.
Are your students msising out on the resources they need? Tell us your school's story and we'll send it to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.
Ramping Up Our Advocacy for Native Youth
How can we be better advocates for America’s first students? As Native American Heritage Month gets underway, NEA is partnering with national Native organizations on a series of education roundtables that will bring together students, educators, parents, and community members to help answer this question. The roundtables, set to take place early next year, will provide a forum for American Indian and Alaska Native youth to share issues they face in and out of school.
- Get up to speed on the education of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students with Native Education 101 ( PDF, 912 KB, 26 pgs.), a joint National Indian Education Association and NEA publication.
- Explore Native American history and contemporary life with classroom lessons and other resources developed by the National Museum of the American Indian and Native community members. See more grade-level lesson plans and activities.
- Visit Vision Maker Media for grade appropriate Native films with accompanying lesson plans and other school resources. Download a poster
( PDF, 1.13 MB, 1 pg.) of award-winning films for your classroom.
- Read NEA’s interview with Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, about the impact of stereotypes on Native students and educators as agents of change.
New Day for America’s Schools
Across the country, educators are back at school—readying their classrooms, offices, cafeterias, and buses for the surge of students who’ll sweep their campuses in the next few weeks. But this year’s return to school marks a new milestone. For the first time in our history, America’s public schools are majority-minority, with students of color outnumbering their white peers. What does this mean for public education—now and in the future? Read more.
A new survey finds that educators can play a critical role in closing the leadership gap for girls and women.
Read the full report to see how you can make a difference.
Find out how you can make the Putting Our Values to Work resource work for you.
Fighting for Immigrant Rights
Marisa Franco, long-time community organizer and Director of the #Not1More Deportation Campaign of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, is an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights.
Read her recent NEA interview here.
Stereotypes and Native Students
Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, talks to NEA about the impact of stereotypes on American Indian and Alaska Native students.
Read her recent NEA interview here.
Great Back to School Pep Talk for Educators
Need a back-to-school pep talk that’s funny and wise? Listen up as Kid President breaks it down.
We Need to Talk About Racial Profiling
Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, brings into sharp focus the urgency for a national dialogue about race—a dialogue that will lead to purposeful and positive action. Read more and view curriculum resources.
Alyssa Hadley Dunn, Assistant Professor of Urban Teacher Education at Michigan State University, posts an open letter to the teachers of Ferguson, and by extension, all educators who are working to build safe spaces for learning.
Let’s Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline
NEA recognizes this is a serious issue that deserves serious solutions and is tackling the problem on multiple fronts.
The new collaborative toolkit, “Restorative Practices: Fostering Healthy Relationships and Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools,” comes on the heels of widely publicized independent research that challenges virtually every notion behind the frequent use of disciplinary policies that remove students from the classroom. Read more.
NEA Honors Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
What Makes An American? Terry Shima and Mary Murakami share about their experiences as Japanese-American teenagers during WWII—and lessons learned about civil rights and citizenship.
NEA Honors Hispanic Americans
Si Se Puede! Living legend Delores Huerta has dedicated her life to standing up and speaking out for the poorest and most powerless among us.
New DACA Resources for DREAMers
NEA’s first-ever Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) clinic webinar offered a lifeline to DREAMers and their families with the introduction of two invaluable new resources:
- NEA’s DACA Back-To-School Guide for Educators ( PDF, 411 KB, 2 pgs.) is a handy online brochure that spells out the steps for educators who want to help undocumented students attend college. Find out about DACA eligibility requirements, application preparation, locating legal assistance, and other ways you can help.
- The Dream.US National Scholarship Fund for DREAMers is a privately funded initiative that helps make the dream of college education an affordable reality for aspiring students. Learn about financial aid and link to an array of resources to help DREAMer scholars.
More than half a million young people have taken advantage of DACA, the federal program that offers students born abroad, but raised in the United States, a way to attend college without being deported. DACA clinics, co-sponsored by NEA and partners, help students—many of whom are unaware they’re eligible—navigate the process.
To learn more about connecting your students to DACA, check out NEA’s DACA clinic webinar, co-hosted by Own the Dream, the Immigration Advocate Network, and the Bridge Project.
Keeping Our Promise to America’s Black Students
As Historian and Archivist Emeritus for the National Education Association, Dr. Al-Tony Gilmore offers special perspective on the actions educators can take to advocate for the nation’s Black students. Read Q&A with Al-Tony Gilmore.
Integrate Black History Month into your classroom with these lessons and resources.
How Educators Can Help LGBTQ Youth Thrive
Jody Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG National, talks about the vital role educators can play in helping LGBTQ youth gain acceptance with their peers and families. Read Q&A with Jody Huckaby.
Find out more about PFLAG Education and Programs.
A Lesson Only Mandela Could Have Taught
Nelson Mandela was—and is—a towering figure of global social justice, whose lessons to the world are not over. His extraordinary life is a lesson for young people in the revolutionary value of inclusiveness and consensus, and his famous quote “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” is a clarion call for educators everywhere.
Mary Hatwood Futrell, former president of the National Education Association and first president of Education International, writes in an op ed about traveling to South Africa with 2000 NEA members to protest apartheid and about the unfinished business left to all of us.
Multimedia resources on Nelson Mandela for your school and classroom.
A Brighter Future for Native Students
Proclaiming November 2013 Native American Heritage Month, President Obama called for the nation to “shape a future worthy of a bright new generation” by ensuring that America’s promise is fully realized for America’s first people.
In a candid NEA interview ( PDF, 514 KB, 2 pgs.), Dr. Heather Shotton, President of the National Indian Education Association, shares how educators can make this future a reality.
Check out more lessons, activities, and resources for educators to use all year long.
Educator Helps Student Step Closer to His DREAM
David saw his grandmother in Bolivia fight and lose the battle with cancer. David decided to come to the United States to become a doctor. He excelled in school, but realized his DREAM could be deferred because of his undocumented status. But a caring educator stepped in and now he is steps closer to fulfilling his DREAM.
Watch his story.
Learn how you can help DREAMers like David.
Women Brave Mass Arrests Over Immigration Reform
Former teacher and NEA Human & Civil Rights director Rocío Inclán, and more than a hundred women activists, were arrested for engaging in a mass act of civil disobedience at the U.S. Capitol as they demanded lawmakers pass fair immigration reform. Read more...
Call your House member at 866-632-6057 and ask for immigration reform that treats families fairly.
Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month
Latinos in this country have a long and distinguished history of fighting for their civil rights, but their story is largely untold. It is the story of a people challenging America to live up the ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence, a story in which Latino educators and students have played a prominent role.
In 1946, 5,000 Latino parents challenged the segregation of California schools in a case known as Mendez v. Westminster, which became a stepping stone for Brown v. Board of Education.
Today’s Latino community continues to stand for students, including the right of DREAMers to attend college and pursue careers in the only country they have ever known. Read how the Latino civil rights movement has reshaped America ( PDF, 536 KB, 8 pgs.).
Labor Day and the Power of Advocacy
“People forget that the 40 hour work week, employee benefits, and child labor laws were not the gifts of a benevolent CEO.”
“People forget that the 40 hour work week, employee benefits, and child labor laws were not the gifts of a benevolent CEO.”
—Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President
Millions of Americans returned to work post-Labor Day. Thanks to NEA and other labor unions, children were not among them. It’s easy to forget this wasn’t always the case. NEA worked for years to enact state and federal prohibitions against using children in industry. It’s an awesome example of the power of advocacy to change our world. Read about the ways today’s educators advocate for children, and as you and your students begin a busy school year, advocate online by:
- Signing a petition to bring about fair immigration reform for your students and their families.
- Taking a pledge to stand up for bullied students.
- Taking an online survey to share your experiences and identify ways educators can help end racial profiling.
50th Anniversary of the March on Washington
At a critical point in Martin Luther King’s speech during the Great March on Washington, Mahalia Jackson decided King’s prepared notes needed a course correction. “Tell them about the dream, Martin,” she called in her powerful contralto. King left his notes behind and the rest is history.
The moral of the story: We all have a role to play in helping America fulfill a dream.
Join NEA Saturday, August 24, for the “National Action to Realize the Dream March,” at the site of the original event. The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is not just a commemoration, but a continuation of a dream that demands action from all of us. Those of you who can’t join the march in person, join us in spirit by speaking up and acting out in your own school and community.
Wisconsin Teacher Fights for Students
In a small town in northern Wisconsin, Spanish teacher Scott Ellingson has two students in his class who traveled a long way to be there. "Jorge and Miguel came to the U.S. last year to avoid joining a gang in El Salvador. They had been approached by a gang member to sell drugs in their school and they refused," said Ellingson. Read more...
Support our DREAMers!
Kimberly Howard's elementary school kids in Wichita, Kansas have amazing dreams, immigration reform can help them come true. Sensible, fair and comprehensive immigration reform for millions of students and their families appears to be closer to reality than at any time in recent history. Find out more...
Post-Election America—What’s Next for Social Justice?
In the end, the 2012 campaign came down to one question: Are we in this alone or in this together?
Election Day, America answered. We voted for the social contract that unites us as a people and against an Ayn Rand dystopia modeled on "the virtue of selfishness." We the people voted for public education, immigration reform, full equality for gay citizens, economic justice for poor and working families, and a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work. Read more...
Building a Culture of Respect for Human Rights
There’s a growing human rights education movement in the USA.
You can become part of NEA-supported network of educators dedicated to building a culture of respect for human rights—sharing ideas and resources.
Join us at: HRE USA Network's website.
Native Vote 2012
After declaring Native American voting registration "a civic emergency," the National Congress of American Indians called on Indian Country to turn out the largest vote in Native history for the 2012 election. On November 6, during Native American Heritage Month, Indian Country delivered.
Native voters helped re-elect President Obama, made a key difference in two Senate races, and elected two Native Americans, both Republican, to Congress. Campaign efforts have been so successful, Native Americans in Montana and New Mexico are now registered to vote at higher rates than any racial/ethnic group.
"This year's election showed that Every Native Vote Counts, but the work to build sustainable civic engagement in Indian Country is just getting started," says NCAI Executive Director Jaqueline Johnson Pata, "Educators and youth leaders will continue to play a huge role in inspiring Native youth, our future leaders, to become civically informed and engaged."
For Native Vote highlights of the 2012 election, go to Native Vote 2012.