Responding to to concerns from parents and community members in Hempfield (Pa.) School District, ELC sent this open letter that urges opposition to proposed prohibitions on transgender students’ participation in school sports. We call for the school board and district to reject the proposed policy because it illegally discriminates against transgender students. We urge the board to instead undertake its duty to affirmatively protect the rights of LGBTQ students. Read the open letter here.
The June 21, 2022, U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carson v. Makin mandates that Maine use its public school funds to educate children in private religious schools. Never before has the Supreme Court forced a state to fund religious education. The ruling is antithetical to our country’s history and its long-held commitment to a separation between church and state embedded in our federal and state constitutions. It also has important and potentially devasting implications for Pennsylvania’s students.
Pennsylvania’s public schools serve the vast majority of the Commonwealth’s children. Public schools, unlike private religious schools, are prohibited from excluding children or discriminating against students and they are also held accountable for their use of public funds. While tax credits in Pennsylvania are permitted to be used to support private religious schools, public school funds are not, and this is prohibited by our state Constitution. The Supreme Court ruling is a threat to that public school system in many ways. Read more.
We join in grieving for all the victims of the deadly racist attacks in Buffalo that targeted the city’s Black East Side community. We vow to continue to challenge racist ideologies that motivate these hate-filled attacks.
We also join in mourning the senseless violence in Uvalde, Texas, resulting in the death of at least 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School. We vow to continue to do our part to seek to stop gun violence and the toll it continues to take in our schools and in our communities. The time for systemic and broad reform is now.
Schools play a critical role in helping students learn how to relate to one another and appreciate our common humanity. Teachers are talking with students about how to respond to events like the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings. It is vital that these classroom conversations be framed with values of justice, anti-racism, and respect for groups that have been marginalized. In the current, politically polarized climate that grants legitimacy to racist views that have no place, we must counter these violent, hate-filled attacks and recognize their connection to broader challenges to school district curriculum and attempts to prohibit teaching truth about racism and oppression.
Moreover, we know that adding more police into schools will not make our schools safer. Schools must be nurturing places of learning for all students. Our leaders owe it to children across the country to work harder to ensure our schools can be just that. Our students need trauma-informed and culturally affirming supports and restorative approaches in schools.
We continue to be alarmed by ill-informed responses to school shootings that result in an increase in police presence in schools or calls to make our schools look and feel more like prisons. Recent history has taught us this does not prevent horrific school shootings but leads to an uptick in arrests for low-level offenses, disproportionately impacting Black and Brown students and students with disabilities. The time for action by all of us is now. We need effective community-based solutions to support and heal our school communities; police are not the answer.
We mourn for the families in Buffalo, Uvalde, and all over our nation grappling with unimaginable loss as we challenge our leaders to address the root causes of gun violence and racism exemplified by these most recent devastating incidents.