NEA Delegates Approve Measure to Ensure Safe and Just Schools For All Students

NEA President Becky Pringle

Measure establishes task force and seeks to partner with allies to continue advancing education justice

One of the first orders of business approved by nearly 8,000 educator delegates on Day One of the NEA RA is to continue to support and advance the work toward education justice. New Business Item (NBI) A, approved by 88 percent of the delegates, calls on NEA to establish a task force that identifies the criteria for safe, just, and equitable schools, including exploring the role of law enforcement in education.

This work will also support campaigns that eliminate the school-to-prison and school-to-deportation pipelines; seek to remedy economic injustices, which include housing insecurity, food insecurity, and limited or no access to health care and childcare; and advocate for funding that addresses resource disparities based upon race, income, and geographic wealth patterns—plus other work required to reduce social and economic barriers that limit students’ academic and economic progress.

“This year has defined what it means to reckon with our past, advocate for better in our present, and expand the possibilities for our future,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “Schools are part of what ties our communities together and shape our children’s lives. We believe in and want safe, just, and equitable schools for all students, regardless of race and place. Some may try to divide us, but we know that by working together, we will create public schools that affirm students’ and educators’ full identities, their creativity and environments in which to thrive.”

 

Critical to a Better Future

The new business item comes at a time when the nation continues to struggle with the global pandemic, growing economic insecurity, and social and racial unrest. At the forefront of educators’ professional lives and their students’ education are recent attacks on teaching the truth in classrooms.

Politicians in at least 25 states have passed or are considering passing laws that would restrict what educators can and cannot teach to students about race and racism, denying them the right to a truthful and honest education.

Despite a legislative push to restrict what is taught in classrooms, educators are committed to helping students examine these harmful systems and help build a better future for everyone.

Eric Brown, a high school science teacher from Evanston, Ill. and an NEA Executive Committee member, introduced the NBI and said, “The actions required to transform our public education system into one that is racially just, safe, and equitable demand all our best thinking—and they demand we unite for a better future for our students, our educators, and our communities.”

He added the NBI sets to “address the issues that politicians have sought to divide us over, but more importantly, it will define what we mean by ‘just, safe, and equitable,’ and it provides the supports our members, locals, and states need to continue to lead on racial justice in spite of those politicians.”

Another focus of this work is to ensure students have the educators they need in their schools, from nurses, counselors, and librarians to education support professionals and restorative justice specialists, among other caring educators who are well resourced, fully funded, and appropriately trained.

Glen Southergill, an associate professor of communications at Montana Technical University, in Butte, rose in strong support of the NBI.

“We are very aware that 14 million students are in schools with police, but no school counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker,” he said. “We know Black students are three times more likely to attend a school with more security staff then mental health personnel. It’s time to make changes…and demand that we lead and support campaigns to address funding, staffing, training, resourcing so that our members are not given unfunded mandates to do more with less. It’s time to define very actionably, specifically, the criteria for racially just, safe, and equitable schools, what they look like and how we’re going to get there.”

In addition to establishing a task force that identifies the criteria for safe, just, and equitable schools, the measure calls for working with national partners, state and local affiliates, racial justice advocates, allies, and community activists, and engaging in campaigns that lead towards ensuring every neighborhood public school is a place where every student can learn, grow, and thrive.

To learn more about the approved measure and read the remaining work, click here. Take action today and pledge to support honesty in education. Plus, follow the conversation on Twitter: #EdJustice #NEARA2021 @NEAMedia.