NEW YORK - The New York Civil Liberties Union announced today the launch of a new program focused on protecting the right to an education in New York. The mission of the new NYCLU Education Policy Center is to advance a civil liberties platform in schools and other institutions that serve young people, and to ensure public schools in New York fulfill their potential as incubators of democratic ideals.
“Public education is a cornerstone of our democracy,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The NYCLU has established an Education Policy Center to ensure that all children in New York can get the education they need to thrive in a pluralistic, democratic society. The Education Policy Center builds on our decades of work for educational justice as we seek to reduce racially disparate outcomes, end the criminalization of school discipline, and treat all children with dignity and respect.”
The Education Policy Center, which is supported by a generous donation from the ECHO Fund, will be directed by Johanna Miller, formerly advocacy director of the NYCLU. Miller is a nationally recognized public policy expert on issues including police reform, education, and privacy and technology.
“I am looking forward to focusing on New York’s nearly three million students, and taking on the challenges they face to get an education. At a time when the federal Department of Education is stripping away civil rights protections, we have an opportunity in New York to end the school-to-prison pipeline, increase funding and supports for schools, and fight for more inclusive and diverse classrooms,” said Miller.
Miller has been a leading advisor to public schools on anti-discrimination and school climate policies, serving on both Mayor de Blasio’s citywide school climate task force and the New York Education Department’s statewide Dignity for All Students task force. She has co-authored groundbreaking civil rights legislation in New York City, including the Community Safety Act, which set up oversight of racially discriminatory policing by the NYPD, and the Student Safety Act, which disclosed how black and Latino children are pushed out of New York City schools by discriminatory discipline policies.
The NYCLU Education Policy Center will advance young people’s civil rights and liberties through legislative advocacy, litigation, community outreach and public education. The Center will focus in the coming years on ending the school-to-prison pipeline, promoting school integration efforts, ensuring safe and supportive schools for all students, and securing comprehensive and inclusive sexuality education across the state. It is the home of the NYCLU’s Teen Activist Project, a youth organizing program that reaches more than 300 young people in New York City.
The NYCLU’s long history of educational advocacy has included successful litigation to enable bussing to bring school integration to Buffalo (1972), establish due process in student suspensions (1975), end the censorship of HIV/AIDS education in public schools (1993), as well as legislative advocacy to challenge police abuse in NYC schools and help pass the Dignity for All Students Act (2010), a law to prevent bullying and bias-based harassment in schools, and the School Safety Act (2011), requiring regular, public reporting by both the NYPD and Department of Education on school arrests and suspensions.