New York Schools rally behind diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives

August 11, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Attorney General Letitia James and New York State Education Department (NYSED) Commissioner Betty Rosa have announced a joint initiative to actively foster an inclusive and diverse educational environment within the public school system.

Several states across the U.S. are experiencing heightened scrutiny over exclusionary educational policies following the U.S. Supreme Court declaring affirmative action unconstitutional. This latest move by Attorney General James and Commissioner Rosa presents an attempt at ensuring New York’s education system is aligned with the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Every student in New York is entitled to learn, grow, and discover in an environment free from discrimination or harassment,” said Attorney General James. “As states such as Texas, Florida, and Missouri are banning books and canceling classes, New York is making clear that diversity, equity, and inclusion will always be protected and central to our children’s education.

The guidance underscores three pivotal domains: First, “Learning and Teaching” which promotes the inclusion of multiple perspectives in curricula to faithfully represent diverse American struggles. Second, “Student Discipline” that focuses on recognizing and countering potential implicit biases which often result in unfair discipline towards students from marginalized groups. And third, “Bullying and Harassment,” where schools are prompted to proactively ward off any forms of discrimination.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Schools are mandated by law to actively safeguard students from bullying and harassment, and should adopt measures promoting a hostility-free environment. The guidance cautions schools against actions that could breach the law, such as book bans, suppressing discussions on topics like slavery or the LGBTQ+ community, and enacting discriminatory practices based on gender or appearance.

“We are urging every school district to reflect on local policies, strategies, and tactics and advance the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure all students have the supports necessary to be fully engaged,” said Commissioner Rosa. “Students cannot learn and develop socially and emotionally when they feel disconnected, intimidated, harassed, or discriminated against. We have a responsibility to remove the barriers that stand in the way of success for many students.

Championing the cause further, Board of Regents Chancellor Lester Young, Jr. said, “Our prime duty is to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion within our education system. Introducing diverse perspectives in our curriculum cultivates respect and understanding among students.”

With the Dignity for All Students Act already in effect since 2012 and updated in 2021, and the Board of Regents advocating for policies advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, the state of New York stands resilient in its commitment to inclusivity.

The guidance also comes with a stringent warning against any actions violating the tenets of equity, including prohibiting discussions on pivotal issues like slavery, the LGBTQ+ community, or unwarranted bans on books.

The essence of a school’s atmosphere plays a pivotal role in providing equal learning opportunities for every student. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and NYSED are unyielding in their dedication to safeguard students’ rights. New Yorkers who have insights regarding infractions such as discrimination or harassment within academic settings are urged to get in touch with OAG’s Civil Rights Bureau.


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