Education Civil Rights Alliance Launches to Fight Back Against Violations of Students’ Civil Rights

Nov 2, 2017

Members include civil rights groups, child welfare advocates, teachers’ unions, experienced litigators, community and education leaders

Washington, DC (November 2, 2017) – Today, in the face of increasing threats to students’ civil rights throughout the nation, more than two dozen leading education and civil rights groups announced a new alliance committed to protecting students’ rights to education. The Education Civil Rights Alliance (ECR Alliance) will provide resources to those seeking to ensure students get the education promised under education civil rights laws, and will take action against those who violate students’ rights.

The ECR Alliance includes powerful community groups, experienced educators, the nation’s largest teachers’ unions, accomplished legal organizations, influential national associations, civil rights organizations, and government agencies committed to ensuring that s chools serve, educate, empower and are safe for all students. Members of the ECR Alliance have extensive experience in, and a deep commitment to, protecting students’ civil rights.

All across America today, far too many students face bullying and other barriers to education based on their race, religion, national origin, gender identity, disability, first language, or sexual orientation. Immigrant children continue to be illegally denied the right to enroll in school. Increasingly divisive and hateful rhetoric and growing anti-Muslim and White nationalist sentiment only serve to exacerbate the threats to already marginalized students. The ECR Alliance formed to fight back against the civil rights violations students are experiencing around the country and ensure all students can access education.

“Our students’ civil rights are fundamental to their ability to succeed in school, and in life, but those rights are under attack today. This alliance believes that it is our duty to protect our students, especially marginalized students, and ensure that education agencies follow the law of the land,” said Miriam Rollin, Director of the new Education Civil Rights Alliance. “The ECR Alliance will provide resources to help parents, educators, school districts, and advocates protect students’ civil rights, and we will also be there to support legal action if government agencies fail in that duty.”

The ECR Alliance is committed to defending students’ rights across the country and at all levels of government. In addition to providing resources and supporting legal action, the ECR Alliance will also work to raise public awareness of these challenges facing students, and serve as a deterrent to discriminatory and illegal behavior. Examples of the challenges marginalized students face include barriers to enrollment in school, failure to provide school accommodations for students with disabilities, disparities in school discipline, bullying and harassment and denial of classroom or other school resources.

“We know that our most vulnerable students were vulnerable long before the Trump administration, but it is the U.S. Department of Education’s legal duty to fight for and protect our students. The department has let our students down by withdrawing vital legal protections, and it has stood idly by while allies of this administration actively try to harm our students. As a classroom teacher, the department’s actions shock the conscience,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “The National Education Association is partnering with the Education Civil Rights Alliance because we join with those who will work with us to stand up for our students. This alliance will help provide parents, educators, advocates and school administrations with the tools and resources they need to protect our students’ rights to a just, fair and excellent education.”

“No child should endure bullying, harassment or discrimination. The rise in these behaviors in schools and communities requires a strong and coordinated response,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “On behalf of the 1.7 million members of the AFT, we are pleased to partner with the Education Civil Rights Alliance to protect the right of every child to a safe and supportive environment in which they learn and thrive.”

“The National Disability Rights Network is pleased to be a part of the Education Civil Rights Alliance, which was formed because of the urgency to protect students’ civil rights around the country,” said Curt Decker, Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network. “We share the Alliance’s belief that schools should serve, educate, empower, and be safe places for all students. We support the Alliance’s mission to provide model resources so agencies can protect students, but, as the nation’s largest provider of legal advocacy services to adults and children with disabilities, we are also prepared to pursue legal action when they fail in that duty.”

“The Gwinnett Parent Coalition to Dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline (Gwinnett SToPP) is pleased to join the Education Civil Rights Alliance in the important work of protecting the civil rights of vulnerable students,” said Marlyn Tillman, the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Gwinnett Parent Coalition to Dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline. “Gwinnett SToPP is excited to participate with the efforts of the Alliance in support of each child reaching their full educational attainment while ensuring that students and parents are centered in all solutions.”

“The National Women’s Law Center proudly joins the Education Civil Rights Alliance and shares its mission to ensure that all students are able to learn and thrive in schools—free from discrimination,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. “In the last year, students across the country have faced a dramatic uptick in harassment at school that undercuts their ability to feel safe and learn. Our work to help these young women—and all students—could not be more important as we face an administration ready to roll back key civil rights protections.”

“Education expands opportunity for all children to thrive and prosper. But African-American students and students with disabilities, who are suspended from school at greatly disproportionate rates compared to white students, are particularly vulnerable to being pushed out of school,” said John Bouman, President of The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. “By protecting students’ civil rights, we can ensure that school is a safe and healthy space for all of our children.”

“For more than 50 years, the Legal Aid Justice Center has sought equal justice for all Virginians by solving clients’ legal problems, strengthening the voices of low-income communities, and rooting out the inequities that keep people in poverty,” said Mary Bauer, Executive Director of the Legal Aid

Justice Center. “We are pleased to join the Education Civil Rights Alliance, a critical effort to protect the civil rights of vulnerable students nationwide, and we will continue to work to ensure that all students in Virginia have access to schools that are safe, empowering, and free from discrimination.”

“As we find ourselves in this moment of struggle for the very soul of America, it is heartening to see students, families and educators stepping up and insisting that our schools be places of equal educational opportunity and free from discrimination,” said Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “As a national coalition, we have learned over many years the importance of working together with partners to seek justice and fairness and we are excited to bring that perspective to the Education Civil Rights Alliance. The Alliance will provide the types of resources that communities need to provide the learning environments that all children deserve and we are proud to be a part of that effort.”

Members of the new ECR Alliance include:

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Advancement Project
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • Boston-area Youth Organizing Project
  • Children’s Defense Fund
  • Children’s Law Center, KY
  • Communities for Just Schools Fund
  • Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
  • Disability Rights Texas
  • Education Law Center (PA)
  • Equal Rights Advocates
  • Gwinnett SToPP
  • Juvenile Law Center
  • Lambda Legal
  • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Legal Aid Justice Center
  • Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • National Center for Youth Law
  • National Disability Rights Network
  • National Education Association
  • National Education Association Foundation
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • Open Society Policy Center
  • Public Rights Project
  • Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Texas Appleseed
  • UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies

About the Education Civil Rights Alliance
The Education Civil Rights Alliance is a diverse and experienced group of organizers, educator organizations, community groups, professional associations, civil rights organizations, and government agencies that are committed to protecting the civil rights of marginalized students.

Contact: Lewis Cohen