Open Forum: Are public schools ‘inclusive’? Not for those who oppose abortionRoundup
tags: Jonathan Zimmerman, abortion, public schools
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author (with Emily Robertson) of “The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools” (University of Chicago Press, 2017).
The Los Angeles School Board celebrates diversity and inclusion. If you visit its website, you’ll see admirable efforts to recognize and affirm students of different races, ethnicities, religions and sexualities.
But students who are anti-abortion? Not so much.
Witness the May 21 board resolution criticizing recent measures in Alabama and several other states to restrict or prohibit abortion.
“This is an anti-choice movement that will particularly impact women of color and low-income women,” the resolution declared. “We will show up to speak out and fight against this unconstitutional attempt to gut Roe v. Wade and punish women.”
I’m a liberal Democrat, and I share the board’s beliefs about abortion rights. But I’m also an educator, and my job is to help people come to their own beliefs — about abortion, and everything else.
So I can’t accept a school district assuming a unilateral position on a controversial political question. That’s not “inclusive.” It’s insulting — to the people who don’t agree with me.
And many of them, let’s remember, are people of color. According to a 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center, Latinos are almost evenly split on abortion: 49% say it should be legal in all or most cases, while 44% say it should be illegal. That makes them substantially more conservative on this question than the nation as a whole, where 58% say abortion should be legal or all or most cases, and 37% say it should be illegal.
And at last count, 73.4% of the Los Angeles School District’s nearly 700,000 students are Latino. It’s fair to assume a robust proportion of their families are anti-abortion, just like Latinos around the country are.
What does the district’s resolution say to them? Although it’s couched in concern for people of color, it says that they don’t count. We’re right, and they’re wrong.
It also echoes the spirit of intolerance that we’ve witnessed in so many schools since the election of President Trump. According to a 2017 survey by scholars at UCLA, an increasing number of schools have become “hostile environments for racial and religious minorities.” The report focused especially on attacks against Muslims, who received slurs and threats in the months after Trump called for a ban on Muslim travel to the United States.