Youth Deserve Safe, Inclusive Schools

Making investments in child safety, education, and mental well-being in a way that is based on science and reason has long been understood as a priority for humanists. Historically, the American Humanist Association (AHA) has not only called upon the federal government to make protecting children from gun violence a top national priority, but also supports and believes in federal funding for education, anti-racist and nondiscriminatory public education policy, the creation of government measures that interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, evidence-based school curricula, mental health services that produce equitable outcomes for all, and more.

The AHA works to further well-being initiatives through programmatic responses and proactive policy and coalition work. For example, the AHA is proud to partner with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (Leadership Conference). The Leadership Conference is a coalition of more than 230 national organizations that work to further and protect the civil and human rights of all, channeling efforts through collaboration on legislative advocacy, outreach, the crafting of advocacy letters, comments, and testimony, the dissemination of helpful factsheets and reports, and more. The Leadership Conference’s efforts are focused through task forces that oversee issue areas like employment, health care, and immigration, among others.

The Leadership Conference’s report on Civil Rights Principles for Safe, Healthy, and Inclusive School Climates, which the AHA supported, encourages Congress to help “create and maintain safe schools that afford all students equal educational opportunities by incorporating these principles into all relevant legislation.” It maintains an important assertion that the implementation of these principles—including ensuring the rights of students, protecting student health and safety, working against discrimination and harassment, and investing in infrastructure—must be evidence-based.

On June 25th, 2022, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S. 2938) into law. Following the recent and tragic mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, the bill materialized as an effort to address gun violence and the health and safety of school children. In doing so, it modifies gun laws and makes worthwhile investments into schools and mental health services.

While the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is certainly welcome progress towards addressing these important matters, it is crucial that the bill’s funds and mandates are implemented in a way that takes an evidence-based approach to our education and mental health systems. That is why, on August 3rd, 2022, The Leadership Conference authored a letter entitled, “Advance Safe, Healthy, and Inclusive School Climates: Invest in Evidence-Based Programs through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.” This letter, which the AHA signed along with other organizations, urges federal implementors to invest in evidence-based best practices, such as described in the Civil Rights Principles for Safe, Healthy, and Inclusive School Climates report, to ensure schools foster inclusive and wholistic learning environments for children and avoid practices that criminalize youth.

As the letter states, “our children deserve positive solutions to keep them safe in schools.” Together, we can encourage and create a world for our children that is sustainable, evidence-based, and informed and supported by data and reason.

You can find more humanist education resources for children and families from the AHA in our Bringing Humanism Home lesson plans, Ten Commitments workbook containing children’s activities, and resources for students, families, and educators about boycotting the Pledge of Allegiance.