Michigan Civil Rights Commission: A Safe Learning Environment is a Civil Right

Contact: Vicki Levengood levengoodv@michigan.gov

October 1, 2021

Lansing, MI-The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has unanimously approved a resolution calling on policy makers, elected officials, education leaders and officials at every level of state government to endorse and support their position that providing a safe learning environment for students is a civil right.

In the resolution, the Commission asserts that all students must be provided with an educational environment that is safe and welcoming regardless of the students' race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, genetic information, disability, or immigration. Ensuring a safe school environment requires that schools, local and state governments implement best practices for the prevention of COVID-19 in all Michigan public schools.

"Our position that we are obligated to keep schools safe comes at a time when we're seeing Michigan's COVID-19 rates trend upward and outbreaks related to the return to in-person learning sparking additional infections among school children," said Stacie Clayton, Chair of the Commission. "Protecting students from this potentially deadly virus is not optional; provisions in the Revised School Code give schools the duty to take necessary measures to protect the health and safety of all students."

Citing the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Commission reports that Michigan has 166,715 cases of children with COVID-19 -- the fifth highest number of cumulative COVID-19 cases among children in the country. In addition, they point to 344 new outbreaks of COVID-19 and 548 ongoing outbreaks reported on September 14, 2021 as evidence that state and local officials must put protections in place to safeguard the health of Michigan students.

Commissioners specifically pointed to the need to safeguard schools to protect students with disabilities, who may be more likely to contract COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions, inadequate health care, and systemic social inequities.

Find the complete resolution here: A Safe Learning Environment is a Civil Right.

"Our children are precious to all of us," said Commissioner Gloria Lara, who introduced the resolution. "As parents and Michiganders, we constantly focus on the safety of all our children. One major area of focus is the safety of our children while they are at school. This resolution addresses the very real threat COVID-19 poses to Michigan students. We owe it to every child to do what is necessary to afford some level of protection for them while they are entrusted to our care."

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was created by the Michigan Constitution to safeguard constitutional and legal guarantees against discrimination. The Commission is charged with investigating alleged discrimination against any person because of religion, race, color or national origin, genetic information, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, arrest record, and physical and mental disability. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights serves as the operational arm of the Commission.

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