Synod takes stand for public school educators, academic freedom and equity efforts in schools
Delegates at General Synod 34 during morning plenary Monday, July 3 approved the United Church of Christ taking a stand on issues such as book banning, curriculum restrictions and teacher harassment.
The UCC’s national body approved a resolution supporting public school educators, academic freedom and equity efforts in schools.
The Rev. Rachael Pryor, Associate Conference Minister of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference, presented on behalf of the committee, saying the resolution affirms the unique challenges faced by teachers while mostly preserving the original language of the proponents of the resolution.
The United Church of Christ in New Brighton, Minn., together with several other Minnesota congregations, proposed the resolution with input from longtime career educator Jane Giles, a member of the Open and Affirming team at New Brighton, who helped draft it.
In addition to affirming teachers, the resolution also affirms parents and other adults as well as lifts up the work of students of all ages, Pryor explained in presenting the resolution for adoption.
“Relying on educators to make decisions in the best interest of all students consistent with research and best practice gave us pause,” said Pryor, explaining the addition of “peer-reviewed” due to an awareness that organizations designed to support public schools also are at risk of similar attacks.
‘Think for yourself’
Some delegates who spoke in favor of approving the resolution included those who have family members who taught, were retired teachers themselves or still teach in today’s environment. Elizabeth Windmann of the Missouri Mid-South Conference was one.
As a long-time public school educator who teaches history, Windmann said, “This year was the toughest year ever.”
She concluded that whenever she is asked “Why do we have to learn about that?” her reply is always, “Because I want you to learn how to think for yourself.”
The resolution calls for “every person … to be given the opportunity to see themselves and their neighbors represented, to access truthful information and to learn from our past so students are better equipped to advocate for and to reach their full potential as critical thinkers.”
The Rev. Alice Rauch of the Penn Central Conference was another educator who spoke in favor of the resolution, describing her involvement with a well-crafted middle school team only to have their efforts “disbanded by the political wranglings” of the board that was “not about the best interest of the children.”
List of stances
Another section of the resolution details that the UCC stand against efforts to:
- Inflame the public with hateful rhetoric toward educators
- Censor or ban what is taught in public school classrooms
- Censor or ban books and media in school libraries
- Deny the histories of oppression experienced by marginalized groups
- Deny racism, sexism, heterosexism, xenophobia, antisemitism, ableism and other forms of prejudice, bias and hate
- Impose burdensome disclosure mandates related to classroom lessons, assignments and activities
Only one modification — the deletion of lay members from a section of the resolution — caused a sticking point. Some delegates said the language of “all settings of the Church” was inclusive of lay members, while others felt it was not. An amendment to reinsert the words failed to pass.
Shortly after, the Rev. Tanya Sadagopan of the Wisconsin Conference called for the vote on the resolution. It was approved with 651 delegates voting yes, 13 voting no, and four abstaining.
Julie Darnold Atkins, a General Synod newsroom volunteer, serves the Missouri Mid-South Conference as communications specialist.
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