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PRRAC Handbook: Education and Civil Rights

Education and civil rights are undeniably linked. In 2016, a University of Southern California study on physical fitness in 900 California public schools found that there are significant racial, economic, and achievement indicators that affect student fitness across all districts. Many schools fail to meet the physical education requirements mandated by the California Education Code. Combined organizing and legal strategies which utilize social science evidence can promote compliance. In response to an administrative complaint with community leaders that The City Project filed as counsel, LAUSD adopted a plan to comply with physical education and civil rights requirements. Physically fit students can do better academically, stay in school longer, and graduate at higher rates.

Effective education in history, culture, and art can also dramatically increase student’s education outcomes, including attendance and GPA in all subjects, according to a study by Stanford University. Yet another national survey found that barely half of teachers believe that they are competent to teach race and slavery. In higher education, academic experts and social scientists publish studies and serve as experts in organizing and legal campaigns that support civil rights, environmental justice, and health equity. A study by economic historian Gavin Wright showed that The Civil Rights Revolution led to improved outcomes for all students.

Foundations and government funders can support education, compliance, and enforcement related to civil rights laws through social and traditional media campaigns. For example, after the Acjachemen people posted a YouTube video about the significance of the Panhe and San Onofre State Beach as sacred sites, Native Americans organized to stop a toll road which would have devastated both. In these cases, the legal framework maintains the bond between education and civil rights.

This post is part in a series by The City Project’s UCLA Graduate Intern Alex Ruppert exploring “A Framework for Civil Rights: Environmental Justice and Health Equity,” which is included in the PRRAC book Strategies for Health Justice at pages 45-57. The framework based on combined organizing and legal strategies is written by The City Project, GreenLatinos, and The Praxis Project.


LAUSD School Board adopts physical education resolution to comply with California law in response to community organizing and administrative complaint. 2008.

See other posts in the series here: