American Bar Association considers anti-bias training mandate for law schools

The mandate includes guidelines on 'training and education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism' in addition to the recognition of 'gender identity' and 'expression.'

One guideline suggests replacing the term 'minority' with 'people of color.'

The American Bar Association is considering changes to its rules for approved law schools, including required anti-bias training and a mandatory acknowledgment of “gender identity.”

An April 30 memo from the ABA’s Standards Committee recommends several updates to the group’s “Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools.”

Namely, the document suggests changing Standard 303 to include “a new section requiring law schools to provide training and education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.” Such programs would have to occur “at the start of the program of legal education” and “at least once again before graduation.”

Among other suggestions, the document recommends “orientation sessions for incoming students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism,” “courses on racism and bias in the law,” or “guest lectures or trainings by experts in the areas of bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism” to comply with the new mandate.

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The document also recommends adding “gender identity” to nondiscrimination statements throughout the Standards.

For instance, the committee recommends changing Interpretation 206-1 to read that “gender identity or expression” and “sexual orientation” in admissions or employment decisions “is not a justification for a school’s noncompliance with Standard 206,” which mandates that a law school should provide an environment that is “inclusive and equitable.”

It is unclear how such changes would affect law schools that have both been approved by the American Bar Association and subscribe to Christian convictions, such as Liberty University School of Law and Baylor Law.

The document also recommends amending Standard 206 by swapping the term “minority” for “people of color,” as the American Bar Association has “expressed the importance of moving away from the use of the term ‘minority.’”

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In order to comply with the new requirement for “diversifying the students, faculty, and staff” and “creating an inclusive and equitable environment” enumerated in Standard 206, the document recommends “providing need-based or diversity scholarships to students,” “setting and publishing goals related to diversity and inclusion,” or “creating pool and yield-building efforts and initiatives designed to attract and matriculate students from underrepresented groups.”

Campus Reform reached out to the American Bar Association for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

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