Higher Education News
All students—regardless of race, national origin, religion, disability, or sex—deserve access to a high-quality education, from preschool through college. Throughout the last seven-and-a-half years, the Obama administration and the Department of Education have worked to safeguard the rights and protections of our students by enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws and implementing regulations that prohibit discrimination and providing additional support to educators to prevent such discrimination.
Building on these critical efforts, today, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launched a webpage that consolidates resources from across the Federal government about religious discrimination. The new page links to OCR’s relevant policy guidance and case resolutions involving religious discrimination claims, as well as resources in various languages and from other Federal agencies.
We also revised our online complaint form to clarify when OCR can investigate complaints from individuals who believe they have experienced racial, ethnic, or national origin discrimination involving their religion. Both efforts aim to ensure that students of all religious backgrounds receive the full protection of federal civil rights laws.
OCR’s jurisdiction under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit ethnic characteristics (e.g., Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh students). Our updated online form reaffirms that students and parents of all faiths can file complaints with OCR that include aspects of religious discrimination in education, even though Title VI does not expressly prohibit religious discrimination.
Such complaints are not new to OCR. Last year, we received more than 450 complaints of racial or national origin harassment, including some involving religion. We have used enforcement as a key tool to protect students of many religious backgrounds from unlawful discrimination. For example, we have resolved cases involving Jewish students subjected to anti-Semitic epithets or Muslim students targeted for wearing a hijab and called terrorists. In instances where schools failed to address a hostile environment, we have secured commitments from those schools to improve their harassment policies and procedures, train staff and students, and conduct school climate surveys.
In addition to resolving cases, OCR has conducted outreach and worked to share resources with the field in order to support schools in their efforts to prevent religious discrimination. Since March, OCR has participated in a series of roundtables with other federal agencies on issues of religious discrimination, including bullying of students from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. Our participation in the Justice Department’s Combating Religious Discrimination Today roundtables also has given us the opportunity to hear from communities and advocates around the country on the issue of religious discrimination in our nation’s schools. In June, OCR issued a fact sheet about combating discrimination against Asian-American, Native-Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian students, and I recently blogged about OCR’s work to prevent discrimination involving religion at schools and universities.
We recognize, as the Department recently stated in the Federal Register, that there are “an increasing number of incidents of anti-Semitic bullying and harassment in public schools . . . [and] reports documenting that students who are or are perceived as Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Arab, Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Southeast Asian are frequent targets of bullying and harassment.” In response, the Department revised the regulations for the Equity Assistance Centers (EACs). The EACs, starting in October, will be authorized to provide technical assistance, on request, to public school districts, students and parents, and community organizations to prevent and combat religious discrimination.
Recognizing that data are critical in understanding the problem and measuring progress, later this year every public school district in the country will be required, for the first time, to report to OCR through the Civil Rights Data Collection on the number of incidents of religious-based bullying or harassment in their schools in the 2015-2016 school year. We hope that this information will be useful to schools, policymakers, researchers, and others to facilitate a broader understanding of the scope of this issue.
We look forward to continuing this important work by using all the tools at our disposal to address unlawful discrimination so that all students can learn in safe, inclusive, and welcoming school environments.
Catherine E. Lhamon is Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
The post Protecting Students of All Religious Backgrounds from Unlawful Discrimination appeared first on ED.gov Blog.
‘Historians Against Trump’ and ‘Historians on Donald Trump’: Scholars Sound Off About Why They Joined
In June 2013, when we launched the first “Education Built to Last” Green Strides Tour, little did I know that I would be embarking on the best component of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award program to date. The 2013 tour took me to 11 states to engage in 40 events; spanning Alabama, New England, New York, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and Washington, DC. Like the award, it was a fantastic opportunity to build relationships and make connections at federal, state, local and school levels for facilities, health, and environment.
In 2014, under the theme “Healthy Schools, High-Achieving Students,” and with an additional 46 events in 6 states, I enhanced my knowledge about green schools practices. From Boulder and Fort Collins, CO to Palm Beach and Broward, FL, from West Virginia to Kentucky, from Prior Lake Savage and Waconia, MN to Maryland, – practices that save money, improve health and achievement, and just happen to help our planet to boot – all of which make sense for school administrators, teachers, and the students we serve.
I took fall 2015 off of to care for my son, but this fall I am headed back on tour, this time to focus our efforts on “Real World Learning” — authentic, hands-on education that connects students to their school, grounds, communities, and the world. As we think toward this fall’s tour, here is a bit of what I learned during the first 17 states, 86 events and two seasons of our Green Strides Tour:
1.) An unused swamp, forest, or stretch of asphalt can become a living, green classroom to engage students in science, engineering, social studies, music, and language arts as well as connect the school to its community.
2.) Alternative transportation programs reduce district costs and harmful air pollution. Walk and bike to school programs also get students and families active while engaging the community.
3.) Students joyfully eat veggies that they plant, grow, and harvest in their carefully planned gardens. Our ED-GRS honorees use school gardens to learn science, social studies, nutrition, agriculture, art, and civics, among many other subjects.
4.) Kids get excited learning about the world around them when they learning outdoors. Thinking about the interconnected social, economic, and ecological systems that make up our planet and the challenges that our communities face exercises complex thinking, problem-solving and collaborative working skills.
5.) Where students learn matters. Period. Ventilation, moisture, contaminants, daylight, acoustical and thermal comfort, and design that encourages collaboration and inquiry. All of these aspects of a school can hasten or hamper learning.
6.) Students don’t want to read about science. They want to do science. Environment and sustainability concepts make for engaging, project-based learning.
7.) Student tour guides tell it best. Everywhere we went, students wowed us with their health, environmental, and sustainability learning. This wasn’t rote memorization. They owned the concepts because they live them.
Green schools exist everywhere. There is amazing continuity among the practices, partnerships, and leadership that makes a school, district, or postsecondary institution effective in its greening efforts. For this reason and so many more, I can’t wait to visit state number 18 this fall, when Green Strides will head to Pennsylvania!
Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education. In her spare time, she hikes with a toddler on her back.
The post Why I Can’t Wait to Get Back to the Green Strides Tour appeared first on ED.gov Blog.
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) began in 2011-2012, by defining “green school” according to three Pillars and recognizing 78 schools. In 2012-2013, ED added a District Sustainability Award and honored 64 schools and 14 districts. It also began an annual tour spotlighting the practices of honorees and launched a Green Strides resources portal for all to employ. The 2013-2014 cycle named 48 school and 9 district honorees and added an honor for state officials. 2015 brought a postsecondary category, honoring 9 colleges and universities, 14 districts, and 58 schools recognized, and saw the revamping of the Green Strides portal.
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Just as I find it hard to believe my baby will turn one next week, I don’t know how it is that U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) hit five years of operation this one. On Wednesday, we recognized 47 schools, 15 districts, 11 postsecondary institutions, and one state education agency official at a Washington, DC ceremony for their efforts to cultivate sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and authentic, place-based learning.
As ED-GRS Director, I celebrate the honorees’ achievements each passing year while continuing to look for ways to make this recognition award fresh and useful to the school communities we serve. From tentative beginnings, it has become quite clear to us here at ED that sustainable school practices are here to stay and that our federal agency requires some understanding of school facilities, health, and environment matters, particularly as they affect learning. I’ve been honored to serve in this evolving role, to read each and every one of our nominations in full every year of this award, and to preside over our annual ceremony, which is always a wonderfully celebratory event.
Learning from the many national non-profit and federal colleagues who have educated us in these areas over the last five years, I too have come to think of healthy, safe, sustainable schools that offer real-world learning opportunities as something should be the norm in all of our schools. These are certainly what I now look for in educating my own son, who will begin in a nature-inspired preschool in the coming year, and has spent every day of his first year getting outdoors and active with me, whether swimming, hiking, running, or biking.
Five years and many schools, districts, postsecondary institutions, resources, webinars and tour legs later, it’s my hope that this low-budget — but, we like to think, still highly relevant — award will continue to ignite change well beyond the deserving schools that we honor, spreading the gospel of sustainable practices and free Green Strides resources from which all schools can benefit. Five years, and I believe that the green school revolution is just taking off.
In the upcoming 2016-2017 awards cycle, state education authorities are once again invited to nominate green schools, districts, colleges, and universities by February 1st, 2017 and to encourage all schools to make use of these money-saving, health- and achievement-enhancing environmentally sustainable practices.
To learn more about this year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees, visit our website and annual Highlights Report. You may also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and ED’s Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison.
The post Celebrating Five Years of Incentivizing Sustainable School Practices appeared first on ED.gov Blog.