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Group Advocates for Inclusive Schools in Keystone State

by Danielle Smith, Keystone State News Connection

Dec 17, 2022

A Pennsylvania group has responded to what it says are “discriminatory policy proposals in the state education system” by launching the “Inclusive Schools and Honest Education” initiative.

The Keystone State serves more than 1.7 million students in grades K-12, in 500 school districts.

Kristina Moon, senior staff attorney with Education Law Center, said the last few years have seen increasing numbers of attacks on the basic principle that every child deserves an educational experience that is safe and prepares them for success.

Moon said the initiative covers three key areas of concern.

“One being book bans,” said Moon, “another being censorship of curriculum and classroom discussion, and the third – and kind of laced throughout these, those first two – is really targeted discrimination and exclusion of LGBTQ students.”

Moon added that the group has reviewed some of the policy proposals on school-board agendas that parents and other community members have raised concerns about, and has given legal advice to students and parents about the policies.

She said they’ve also addressed school boards, describing the potential legal problems with some of the proposals.

Moon said the group has two levels of concern – one with local school boards, the other with more and more restrictive legislation at the state level.

She said she believes their continued advocacy effort has been helpful, and says parents also are making their voices heard – even after policies are finalized – to try to ensure that implementing them doesn’t create discrimination.

“We have been lucky enough that the censorship and book banning and ‘don’t say gay’ bills proposed in the Pennsylvania Legislature,” said Moon, “so far have been successfully thwarted, and not gone forward.”

Moon said it’s critical that state lawmakers not give the impression to local school board leaders that Pennsylvania schools are places where gay and transgender students can be excluded and discriminated against.

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