National Center for Youth Law


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Leading Educators Defend Student Civil Rights

A distinguished group of 14 educators, Leading Educator Ambassadors for Equity (LEAE), have undertaken a drive to  promote education equity amongst their peers while challenging regressive federal policy actions. The LEAE are affiliated with the Education Civil Rights Alliance (ECRA) convened by NCYL.

Spearheaded by LEAE member and 2014 Oregon Teacher of the Year, Brett Bigham, the Educator Ambassadors drafted a letter to the Trump Administration opposing plans to define gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth. They, instead, expressed support for existing Department of Education policies regarding transgender students. The letter highlighted statistics showing transgender students and other LGBQ+ students experience high rates of school-based obstacles to success. Bullying, harassment, assault, violence, and hostile school policies are, unfortunately, common experiences for transgender and gender non-conforming students.

Tom Rademacher, 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, and Rick Joseph, 2015 Michigan Teacher of the Year, led LEAE members in a response to the Department of Education’s efforts to rescind current Title IX protections for those who report sexual assault or sexual harassment. Educator Ambassadors urged the Department of Education to continue centering those who have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted in their focus of Title IX. The letter was featured in Education Week.

LEAE members Brett Bigham and Kelisa Wing, 2017 Department of Defense Education Activity Teacher of the Year, will attend the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) National Teacher of the Year (NTOY) Program Induction this month. Along with Miriam Rollin, ECRA Director, Brett and Kelisa will meet with newly inducted Teachers of the Year to discuss education equity and the important role educators play in advancing it. It is expected this CCSSO-ECRA partnership will lead to an education equity presentation during CCSSO’s “Washington Week” in May.

Also in February, Maryann Woods-Murphy, 2010 New Jersey Teacher of the Year, and Monica Washington, 2014 Texas Teacher of the Year, will attend the 50th NEA Foundation Gala. There, along with Tamara Lewis, ECRA Senior Program Associate, they will join with funders, advocates, and other educators to celebrate the work being done in promoting education opportunities for marginalized students.

Finally, LEAE members, Kelisa Wing, Sydney Chaffee, 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Gloria Robertson, 2017 Oregon Teacher of the Year, and Abdul Wright, 2016 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, submitted a proposal to present at the 2019 National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) conference. Titled, “Education: The Civil Rights Issue of OUR Time,” LEAE members are eagerly awaiting an acceptance confirmation.