State officials say NY schools have an 'obligation' to promote DEI
The guidance letter reminded public schools that they “cannot meet their legal obligations unless they place DEI at the center of their work.”
The State of New York released an 11-page guidance letter reminding Local Education Agencies of their obligations to promote DEI.
The State of New York released an 11-page guidance letter reminding Local Education Agencies and the state Board of Regents of their obligations to promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies.
In the Aug. 9 letter, State Attorney General Letitia James and Commissioner of Education Betty A. Rosa described an expectation for all school districts and universities to develop and implement “policies and practices that advance the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
The letter reminded educators they were expected to “implement such policies and practices with fidelity and urgency”; they also emphasized an “obligation to place dignity, inclusion, and respect at the center of their educational decisions.”
The new board policies outlined an initiative to promote DEI in all public schools and universities across the state. Because of this policy, the guidance letter reminded public schools that they “cannot meet their legal obligations unless they place DEI at the center of their work.”
Several of these instructions stemmed from the Dignity for All Students Act (Dignity Act), which was signed into law in 2010, and the new “robust DEI policy,” which was adopted by the Board of Regents in May 2021.
The Dignity Act amended the education law to expand policies on tolerance and sensitivity towards different groups of people. Within this policy change, the word “gender” was modified to include “a person’s gender identity or expression.”
In order to ensure “a safe and supportive environment for transgender and nonbinary students,” the letter pointed to a legal update that states: “All students and staff should be addressed by the name and gender pronouns they have expressed.”
The guidance also addressed “gender-segregated facilities, like bathrooms, locker rooms, and changing areas, and how to create a welcoming environment for transgender students.”
“It is an unlawful discriminatory practice for an educational institution, including a public school, to deny the use of its facilities to any person because of... gender identity and expression,” it stated.
The letter also informs districts that disciplinary practices disproportionately affect students of color and LGBT students. “Such disproportionality violates state and federal laws, which require that discipline policies and practices be designed and implemented in a non-discriminatory way,” the letter said.
Instead, they recommend districts “create student-centered learning environments that affirm cultural identities... elevate historically marginalized voices, [and] empower students as agents of social change.”
They also recommend a curriculum that “’reframes the monocultural framework that privileges the historically advantaged at the expense of other groups.’”
The letter also recommend modifying “any outdated policies” to ensure compliance with these laws and policies. They suggest districts should “continuously evaluate, monitor, revise, and improve their policies, procedures, and curricular choices to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Campus Reform has contacted all parties mentioned for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.