News Highlights: Week of November 6

With no state-approved textbooks, Texas ethnic studies teachers make do, by Aliyya Swaby of The Texas Tribune

This week, the Texas State Board of Education will vote on whether a Mexican-American textbook and a Jewish Holocaust memoir will be the first state-approved textbooks for ethnic studies curricula. This comes after the board rejected a 2014 proposal that would’ve made ethnic studies a required class state-wide. In the few Texas school districts that offer ethnic studies as an elective, teachers are responsible for providing students with relevant texts, often sourced from “graphic novels, memoirs, and illustrated histories of various ethnic groups.” While one teacher considers the decision to use alternative texts to be “a constant process to continue finding better sources, better connections, better ways to make it relevant to [students],” many students believe that having a “traditional textbook” would raise awareness among students who don’t yet know ethnic studies electives exist.

U.S. Labor Leaders Confront Sexual Harassment in Their Top Ranks, by Josh Eidelson of Bloomberg News

In line with other industries in recent weeks, several labor unions (like the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)) have let go of top-level staff due to sexual harassment allegations. At its executive council meeting, the AFL-CIO approved a stronger code of conduct and a new process for addressing sexual harassment. In a joint statement, AFL-CIO officers said, “As the premier organization for working people, we recognize that we bear a special responsibility to lead by our actions and example.” Labor unions have much to lose if they fail to make changes—the toxic climates produced by unaddressed harassment are a turnoff for promising new organizers. Kate Bronfenbrenner, a former organizer and a lecturer at Cornell University’s labor relations school, explains the doubly potent impact of harassment on labor organizations: “Sexual harassment is a reason women organize…but it can be a reason women don’t organize.”

Danica Roem Wins Virginia Race, Breaking a Barrier for Transgender People, by Maggie Astorof The New York Times

Danica Roem is the first transgender person to be elected to the Virginia Legislature as of Tuesday, when she beat incumbent Republican Bob Marshall for a spot in the House of Delegates. Not only is Roem’s win historically groundbreaking; it paves the way for future transgender politicians to run. Her win is also a symbolic rejection of what Bob Marshall has stood for in his fourteen terms in office: overt discrimination against transgender people. Marshall pushed for laws to ban transgender students from using their bathroom of choice and repeatedly used male pronouns when referring to Roem during the campaign. While LGBTQ advocates celebrate the win, Roem wants to make one thing clear: “Transgender people have really good public policy ideas that span the gamut of transportation policy to health care policy to education policy, and yes, to civil rights as well…we shouldn’t just be pigeonholed into the idea that we’re just going to be fighting about bathrooms.”

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