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The Legal and Pedagogical Case for Culturally Responsive and Racially Inclusive Public Education for All Students

Laws that censor, punish educators, and deny students a full and honest education are harmful and unlawful
Published: September 29, 2022

An established body of research affirms what educators have long known: a culturally responsive and racially inclusive education benefits all students – and is the most effective pedagogical approach.

These studies show that students who participate in ethnic studies and a curriculum that is culturally responsive and racially inclusive are more academically engaged, perform better academically, and graduate at higher rates. This pedagogical approach also facilitates many of the core goals of public education: promoting democracy by preparing children for citizenship and voting, teaching cultural literacy, developing citizens’ capacities for critical thinking and self-directed learning, and cultivating a workforce that can compete in the global marketplace.

Teaching ethnic studies and a culturally responsive and racially inclusive curriculum is also consistent with federal and state law. Moreover, prohibiting culturally responsive and racially inclusive education harms students and likely violates federal law. Nevertheless, law and policymakers across the country are attempting to prohibit honest curricula, chill classroom instruction, stoke discrimination, and undermine faith in public education and our nation’s educators. But as politicians mischaracterize and stoke fears about what is taught in schools, educators are holding firm in their support for a proven, research-based, and culturally responsive and racially inclusive education for all students.

This joint report with the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance is a reflection of the National Education Association’s longstanding belief that no matter their color, background, or zip code, all children deserve an education that imparts honesty about who we are, integrity in how we treat others, and courage to do what’s right. We hope this report generates new advocacy strategies and ideas about how to pushback against attempts to inhibit with teachers’ ability to do their jobs and students’ ability to learn and grow.

Read the press release

Download the report

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.