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Human and Civil Rights Archives

Human and Civil Rights Archives

Students and the Power of Language

Widely regarded as a pioneer of the Hawaiian education movement, Dr. Keiki Kawai’ae’a has played a central role in the Hawaiian language renaissance and its stunning impact on student achievement. Currently Director of the College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii Hilo campus, the award-winning educator is a passionate advocate for culturally healthy and responsive teaching. Kawai’ae’e spoke with NEA for Asian American and Pacific Islander History Month.


A Champion of Transgender Youth

Daniella Carter was born a boy, but from an early age she knew deep down that she was a girl. A product of New York’s broken foster care system, Daniella was not living in a “caring and loving” environment when she decided to come out as a young women. She ended up homeless, living on the streets of New York City by day and sleeping on subway trains by night. This awful existence tested her commitment to her gender identity and caused her to doubt whether she was worthy of being loved. Today, Daniella is a confident and articulate 21-year-old young woman who champions the cause of transgender youth. NEA interviewed Carter in honor of LGBT History Month.

The Intersection of Poverty and Education

Journalist Kavitha Cardoza, whose series Beating the Odds highlights students who have overcome tremendous obstacles, speaks with TalkPoverty about the poverty issues that spill into our schools and why it’s impossible to separate education reporting from poverty reporting. Read more...

How To Advocate for English Language Learners

America’s fastest-growing student demographic is so disproportionately underserved by the public school system, the number of programs and dollars spent per English Language Learner is in decline even as the number of ELL students has skyrocketed. How can educators and other stakeholders fight for the rights of language-minority students? NEA’s new guide, All In! How Educators Can Advocate for English Language Learners ( PDF, 955.3 KB, 44 pgs.), offers strategies, resources, and step-by-step instructions for navigating the real-life issues educators encounter every day.

Student Leader Is the Face of NEA’s Women’s History Month

Chair of the NEA Student Program, Chelsey Jo Herrig is a powerful advocate for America’s student teachers. “I can help others,” says Herrig, “because at every step along the way, a strong woman helped me succeed”—from a single mother who worked two jobs to make ends meet to a middle school principal who helped the bullied student believe in herself. Herrig talks with NEA about women in leadership and the joys and challenges of teaching. Read more...

watch NEA's women's observance, featuring chelsey jo herrig:

Larry Hamm Speaks with NEA for Black History Month

Community activist Lawrence Hamm has been a human rights advocate ever since he was a teenager. The subject of a documentary film and recipient of numerous leadership and service awards, Hamm once went on a 41-day fast to protest school funding cuts. Hamm talks with NEA about the connection between public education and the struggle for social justice. Read more...

watch nea's black observance, featuring larry hamm

New Report Reveals Vulnerability of Transgender Americans

In a year when transgender Americans are experiencing unprecedented visibility in the State of the Union address, the media, and popular culture, while simultaneously suffering extreme violence, two new reports detail the widespread discrimination and inequities the transgender population faces, particularly transgender women and people of color. Even transgender students often face hostile, unsafe, or unwelcoming school environments. Due to high rates of poverty, harassment, violence, poor health, limited job opportunities, and isolation from their larger communities, transgender people are among the most vulnerable communities in the country. Read more . . .

• Read Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans.

• Read Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being Transgender in America.

New Focus on Long Term English Language Learners

A new focus on an “invisible” group of students comes as data reveals a growing number of long-term English language learners—students who have been enrolled in special programs to learn English for years but who have never tested as fluent in the language. Some experts predict that without a concerted effort, this student population will likely double or triple in the next decade. What can schools do to meet this challenge? California has become the first state in the nation to define and identify a “long-term English learner,” but most school districts are at a loss as to how to best educate long termers.

• NEA’s new guide, Meeting the Unique Needs of Long Term English Language Learners, gives educators and policymakers a crash course on instruction and advocacy.


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.


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.

Teaching Girls to Lead

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.




Putting Our Values to Work

Putting Our Values to Work, NEA’s practical new resource, shows a new generation of social justice activists how to use the power of organizing to stand up for what you believe in—and win.

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.

  • Mary Tamaki Murakami was 14-years-old when she and her family were relocated to a U.S. internment camp as part of the WWII imprisonment of Japanese Americans.
  • Terry Shima tells the story of soldiers who risked their lives overseas even as their families were imprisoned in armed camps at home.
  • View Shima’s and Murakami’speech to the NEA Board of Directors in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

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.

  • No one could have guessed when Dolores Huerta was born in a small New Mexico town in 1930, she would one day receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, have public schools named after her, and have a movie star portray her in a Hollywood film.
  • View Huerta’s speech to the NEA Board of Directors in honor of Hispanic American Heritage Month.

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 icon 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 icon 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.”

—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:

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.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is our guide and inspiration. For a full text of the Declaration, go to their 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.