Delegates at the National Education Association’s annual convention today approved a measure designed to redouble the union’s efforts to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and to support the rights of transgender students to use the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
The business item, submitted by the union’s board of directors, was prompted in part by the attack last month that killed 49 individuals at an LBGT nightclub in Orlando, Fla., nightclub, and the recent spate of legislation regarding the use of public restrooms by transgender individuals, including in schools.
You can read the entire text of NBI A here, but among other things, the item would direct the NEA to:
- Encourage affiliates to combat discrimination.
- Support legal challenges to state laws such as North Carolina’s H.B. 2, which requires individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to their sex at birth, rather than their gender identity.
- Call on the U.S. Department of Education to enforce Title IX’s prohibitions against discrimination as it pertains to restroom access.
- Ensure that NEA meeting contracts explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Debate over this item was brief, and it passed by a huge margin.
Of course, in a delegation of this size—there are 6,880 here—there were a few qualms, mostly over the transgender-restroom issue.
“I agree we need to be careful with rights of the gay and lesbian community, but having open access to any bathroom stomps on the rights of others who are concerned with their privacy and concerned about this becoming an issue for their children,” said Linda Rodriguez, a North Carolina delegate.
The most powerful moment in the debate came when one delegate used her time at the mic to count, slowly, to 49, a reference to the 49 killed in Orlando. By the end of her recitation, the delegates were chanting along with her.
“They were murdered only because they were gay and they were Latino,” the delegate concluded. “Please support NBI A to empower our educators, schools, and communities with the tools we need to ensure that this never happens again.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.