Back to school: Schoolhouse social justice

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

Educators rallied this summer in Atlanta at the National Education Association’s annual conference to prepare for the 2013–14 school year.

Over the summer recess, there were significant developments on issues on the NEA’s political agenda. The Supreme Court overturned the provision in the Defense of Marriage Act that barred the federal government from recognizing married gay couples and cleared the way for same-sex marriage to resume in California. Also, gay couples began marrying in three more states, the U.S. Senate approved a massive immigration reform bill and stronger gun control laws were enacted in several states.

Regarding the Court’s rulings on marriage equality, NEA president Dennis Van Roekel said, “I cannot help but be moved by the thought of all of the children and students we serve whose families will now be made whole.”

Van Roekel observed that the day before the Court ruled for marriage equality, it struck down a provision in the Voting Rights Act, dealing a “horrible blow to the progress we’ve made in our journey to achieve racial equality.”

Van Roekel said the NEA has recommitted to social justice campaigns in a school year bookended by the 50th anniversary of the Great March on Washington and the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision against segregation in Brown v. Board of Education.

“The spirit of Brown was really about whether all children should have the same opportunities to learn,” he said.