Monday, July 17, 2023

How Educators, School Administrators and Families Can Thwart an Anti-Equity Agenda


By Sam Piha 

Katy Swalwell & Noreen Naseem Rodríguez authored an article, How To Thwart An Anti-Equity Agenda: Advice For Teachers, Administrators, And Families published in Education Weekly (April 18, 2023) subtitled Ignoring Right-Wing Smear Campaigns Won’t Make Them Go Away.

The authors warn, “Coordinated, well-funded campaigns by conservative lawmakers across the United States are fast-tracking a radical agenda to shut down diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in schools. Book bans, rules for restroom and pronoun use, regulations against rainbow flags, restrictions on curriculum addressing race and gender, and other efforts fly in the face of facts, logic, democratic norms, and basic humanity.” 

“Many youth are already strategically advocating equity and justice, organizing and building coalitions while too many adults stay silent.” - Katy Swalwell & Noreen Naseem Rodríguez, How to Thwart an Anti-Equity Agenda: Advice for Teachers, Administrators, and Families

They offer advice for teachers, school administrators, and families and community members on they how they can respond to anti-equity actions. Some of their recommendations are cited below. (You can view the entire article and full set of recommendations here.)


For educators 

  • Connect with people who show up to support efforts that center marginalized students and communities, including members of local organizations and online networks.
  • Engage students in primary-source inquiry, allowing them to draw their own conclusions to compelling questions. Couple this inquiry with lessons about critical media literacy and the civics of technology so their claims utilize credible evidence.
  • Review district policies and state legislation carefully so you can avoid the chilling effect of ill-informed or bogus interpretations of new rules and keep school leadership in the loop about your students’ engagement and success. This provides evidence if they need to defend you and gives them time to prepare for pushback. Build trust by communicating with families about your appreciation for their child, what you’re doing, and why—not just when controversies arise.

For school administrators 

  • Develop a detailed plan for how to support and protect staff and students if they get targeted by community members, media, or lawmakers on the anti-equity bandwagon.
  • Educate staff about the political climate so they can be more proactive about the support students and colleagues in targeted groups need.
  • Celebrate and allocate resources for staff and youth defending educational equity.

“Even the best, bravest educators in the world can only do so much if no one has their backs. Every single one of us has a role to play in helping make the work of educators less fraught and dangerous.”- Katy Swalwell & Noreen Naseem Rodríguez, How to Thwart an Anti-Equity Agenda: Advice for Teachers, Administrators, and Families



For families and community members 

  • Ask young people what they need from you to feel safe and supported.
  • Support local and national organizations defending teachers and librarians’ efforts to make schools more inclusive and just.
  • Donate or request books at libraries from banned lists.”

“Whatever we do, we cannot choose to ignore this moment or shrink from scrutiny. That will not make these problems go away. It simply offloads them onto the shoulders of youth. And of any of the options before us right now, that is the least conscionable.” - Katy Swalwell & Noreen Naseem Rodríguez, How to Thwart an Anti-Equity Agenda: Advice for Teachers, Administrators, and Families



Katy Swalwell is a former classroom teacher and professor who leads professional development, creates curriculum, and coaches leaders in schools and districts across the United States. She is a co-author of the forthcoming Fix Injustice Not Kids and Other Principles for Transformative Equity Leadership (ASCD, 2023) with Paul Gorski and co- editor of Anti-Oppressive Education in ‘Elite’ Schools: Promising Practices and Cautionary Tales from the Field (Teachers College Press, 2021) with Daniel Spikes. 

Noreen Naseem Rodríguez is an assistant professor of Teacher Learning, Research, and Practice in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder and was a bilingual elementary teacher in Texas for nine years. Together, Katy and Noreen, are the authors of Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti- Oppressive Approach for Elementary Educators (Norton, 2022)


In an effort to speak out against recent political attacks on LGBTQ+ youth, Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation have posted several LIAS blogs and authored a briefing paper entitled, Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth in Afterschool Programs and Opposing Anti-LGBTQ+ Attacks. Feel free to share these resources with your network. 

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