Midyear Meeting

History and voices of marginalized communities belong in school curricula and should not be banned, ABA House says

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Classroom celebrating Black History Month

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Schools must be allowed and encouraged to include the experiences of marginalized communities in classrooms, along with access to books and resources reflecting their voices, the ABA says.

The ABA House of Delegates on Monday at the 2024 ABA Midyear Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing laws, regulations, policies and ordinances that would restrict teaching about marginalized communities.

“While book banning has become a major issue in this country, so has curriculum banning,” said Darcee Siegel of Florida, a delegate from the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division.

“Curriculum bans prevent teaching complete and historically accurate curricula,” Siegel said, adding that robust curricula are essential to educating well-rounded, civic-minded and fully informed adults.

Resolution 505 is intended to address attempts at the state, local and school board levels to modify school curricula by restricting information, teaching and discussions about the contributions and history of traditionally marginalized groups, racism and the history of people of all genders. The resolution focuses on protecting the ability to teach about and provide access to books and resources based on the experiences of individuals who are members of the LBTQIA+ community as well as all genders, races, ethnic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic groups.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the 2024 ABA Midyear Meeting here.

“Proponents of curriculum bans claim that inclusive curricula harm children by causing them to feel guilt or by exposing them to explicitly sexual material. There is no evidence for these claims,” the report accompanying the resolution says. “However, there is plentiful evidence that excluding positive representations of racial and ethnic minorities and LGBTQIA+ people does harm to children during important formative years of their mental, emotional and psychological development, resulting in durable damage to their health and learning.”

Siegel said “the real fight” is about banning ideas. She also described recent efforts to restrict what can be taught in public schools as attempts to whitewash history and control the views students have of themselves and the United States.

“Education should not be politicized,” Siegel said, saying it is “imperative that the ABA take action to support students’ rights to education and their teachers’ efforts to support them.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill surrounded by private school childrenFollowing the signing by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of the Parental Rights in Education Act, books with LGBTQIA+ characters and themes have been removed from school libraries around the state. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

Bills legislating censorship in schools, colleges, libraries and universities have been on the rise in recent years, according to PEN America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of free expression. In 2022, Florida adopted the Parental Rights in Education Act, known to critics as the “Don’t Say Gay Act,” which prohibits classroom discussion related to sexual orientation or gender identity. Since then, other states, including North Carolina and Arkansas, have followed suit.

Resolution 505’s report cites another Florida law that is of concern. “A notable example of state censure is Florida’s 2022 Stop W.O.K.E. Act, which included measures prohibiting teachers from discussing matters related to race, color, national origin or sex, effectively curtailing any discussion of slavery and marginalization in American history,” the report says. “The law is currently subject to a temporary injunction as judges parse its overreach and impediment of First Amendment rights.”

In August, the House of Delegates passed a resolution opposing attempts to ban books in public education, public libraries or public school libraries. That resolution, sponsored by the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, passed unanimously.

Resolution 505 was sponsored by the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, the Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, the Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence, the Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities, the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the Commission on Youth at Risk, the Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline and the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division, among others.

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