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Menstruation Stigma Has Got to Go. Period.

An unexpected cultural debate was revived by the first Presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle. When Donald Trump didn’t like the way moderator Megyn Kelly framed her questions, Trump said she had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” By now most of us have heard the explanation that he meant her nose. Obviously.

What the public has understood the comment to really mean is that Kelly’s behavior was a result of her menstruating — an occurrence that, despite its mundanity, is still tied to stereotypes of surging hormones and emotional instability in people (not just women) who menstruate.

It feels a little maddening to be having this conversation in 2015, but this particular stereotype is just that strong. Let’s state for the record: even if Kelly had been menstruating, attributing any behavior to that fact would still be an attempt to use a woman’s own body to discredit her. Can you imagine ignoring a man’s comments at work because he had, I don’t know, athlete’s foot? Or you could see his five o’clock shadow coming in? But more importantly, stigma around menstruation is a serious threat to girls and women around the world. We can’t afford to further that threat by giving these myths a national profile. Read more »

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Congress' ESEA Reauthorization

Late last week, the Senate passed S. 1177, its reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). As we have noted before, ESEA has historically been a major civil rights bill meant to ensure access to a high-quality education, regardless of a student’s race, income, sex, or other circumstances. Unfortunately, both S. 1177 and H.R. 5 (the House reauthorization that passed the week before) fall short.

Fortunately, it’s not over yet. The next stop is conference where Senators and Representatives will reconcile the differences between S. 1177 and H.R. 5 and produce a compromise bill that will be voted on in both the House and Senate. As a recap, here’s a rundown of how our priority amendments fared on the Senate floor and what we’ll be watching in conference: Read more »

Senate Education Bill Lets Schools Ignore Disadvantaged Kids

Imagine you’re a supervisor. You’ve set performance goals for all of your employees, and it’s evaluation season. One of the people you supervise has not been reaching her benchmarks. What do you do? Do you work with that employee to come up with strategies for achieving her performance goals? Or do you say, “Well, just keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe it’ll come out better next year”? You would probably work with your employee to improve her performance.

Shockingly, S. 1177—somewhat ironically named the Every Child Achieves Act—takes the opposite approach. The bill, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), requires states to develop accountability systems that measure whether their schools are doing a good job teaching all students. But, where a school’s accountability system reveals that certain “subgroups” of students (like African Americans or students with disabilities) are falling behind, the state and the school are under no obligation to do anything to help those students meet state benchmarks. 

Congress has an Opportunity to Fix the Problem Read more »

Let's Make It Get Better for LGBT Students

Middle school and high school can be brutal for anyone who does not fit the mold of whatever it means to be “cool.” But, it can be particularly rough for students who are questioning their sexuality or coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). And, today youth are coming out at younger and younger ages. In addition to realizing their lives don’t quite match the fairytales they grew up with or heteronormative media messages that surround them, these students often attend schools that openly discriminate against them based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and choose to ignore the harassment they face from their peers.

Federal civil rights statutes expressly prohibit discrimination in education based on race, color, national origin, sex, and disability. However, these laws do not explicitly cover sexual orientation or gender identity. Even though the Department of Education says that Title IX should protect students from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, because the law does not explicitly protect LGBT students, these students and their parents often have limited legal recourse when their schools ignore discrimination (including bullying and harassment) based on LGBT (or suspected LGBT) status.

The Senate has the opportunity to fix that. Late yesterday, Senator Franken (D-Minn.) began speaking on the Senate floor about the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which he is introducing as an amendment to S. 1177, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Read more »

Data Silos Threaten the Purpose of ESEA

When the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law 50 years ago, it acknowledged one of our nation’s most fundamental civil right principles—that all children deserve access to a high-quality education, regardless of their race, income, sex, or other circumstances. To its credit, when Congress reauthorized ESEA as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002, it recommitted to that principle by requiring states to account for the performance of the most disadvantaged students.  

For the first time, districts and states had to report student performance and graduation rates by race/ethnicity, sex, disability status, English proficiency, economic status, and migrant status.  It was one of the most important and positive changes that NCLB brought about.  After all, how can ESEA live up to its promise without data on which groups of students are excelling and which are falling behind?   Read more »

ESEA: Rally Time for Equity in Sports

UPDATE: On Wednesday, July 8th, the Senate passed the High School Data Transparency Act (S.Amdt.2124) by a voice vote as an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act (a bill that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)). The data act, which would help ensure that girls have equal access to athletic opportunities, is now part of the ESEA reauthorization bill pending before the Senate. Senator Murray’s amendment had four other co-sponsors: Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). 


Read more »

Why We Still Need to Talk About Civil Rights in Education

Last year I had the privilege of working as a Jumpstart Corps Member in a preschool that served low-income families, where almost all of the students were African American or Latina/o. I miss those kids every day, and what is even more painful is knowing that many of these smart, lovable children are going to attend under-resourced schools, where they are less likely to have access to advanced courses and are more likely to be subject to excessive discipline practices. That kind of unequal access to meaningful educational opportunities isn’t fair, and it’s a huge civil rights issue.

ESEA’s Civil Rights Core Read more »

ESEA Bill Advances: Fix It, Congress

Yesterday, the Senate HELP Committee voted to advance the Every Child Achieves Act out of committee. This bill would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the major federal K-12 education bill. Although the bill passed out of committee unanimously, several members expressed concern that the bill did not include core civil rights protections for disadvantaged students.

We echo those concerns and hope that if the bill advances to the floor, the Senate adds the following measures to ensure all students have access to a quality education: Read more »

Rewriting No Child Left Behind: Committee Mark-Up Day 1

For three hours yesterday afternoon, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) met to debate and offer amendments to the Every Child Achieves Act—a bipartisan compromise to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The ESEA is the major federal K-12 education-funding bill that was last amended in 2002 as the No Child Left Behind Act.  Here’s a quick rundown of where things stand after yesterday’s markup: Read more »

What's Missing From the Senate's Bipartisan ESEA Proposal?

Last week, Senate HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray released the Every Child Achieves Act—their proposal to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the major federal K-12 education bill, which was designed to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students. Markup of the bill in the Senate HELP committee starts today and is likely to continue at least through Friday. And while the proposed bipartisan bill is better than the discussion draft Senator Alexander released earlier this year, it doesn’t do enough to ensure the most disadvantaged students get the resources they need to learn. Here are three of the reasons why: Read more »