The head of the largest teachers union in the United States called abortion a “fundamental freedom” and vowed to defend the “right to choose” after warning of what she called a “radicalized Supreme Court” at an annual meeting of the National Education Association.
More than 6,000 delegates gathered both in-person and virtually at the 2022 NEA Representative Assembly in Chicago, which concluded Wednesday, where several measures were ultimately passed on a range of hot-button topics, perhaps none more heated than the issue of what the union called “reproductive rights” following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
President Becky Pringle delivered a provocative keynote address at the meeting on Sunday in which she pledged to use the NEA’s influence on issues ranging from abortion and prayer in schools to LGBT rights and school vouchers.
In her address, Pringle invoked the words of Marxist activist Angela Davis — who was once on the FBI's "10 most wanted" list for her involvement in the murder of a judge — in calling for teachers across the nation to “share that view professor Davis holds dear: Whether it is a mind, a heart, a school, a community, or our world, transformation is always possible.”
Calling the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling and other Supreme Court decisions a “gut punch,” Pringle linked the challenges facing the NEA directly to the election of former President Donald Trump.
“We have known since the 2016 election, this day would come; we would feel the effects of a radicalized Supreme Court issuing decisions that do not reflect the views or the values of the majority of Americans,” she said. “We knew the ground had shifted, and the stage had been set to move us further away from the promise of America for all Americans.”
She called the Dobbs decision a move meant to “hijack the fundamental freedom to decide for ourselves when and how to have a family” and criticized the court’s other rulings on school prayer and school vouchers.
As part of the assembly’s proceeding, delegates ultimately voted in favor a measure that read in part: “NEA will publicly stand in defense of abortion and reproductive rights and encourage members to participate in activities including rallies and demonstrations, lobbying and political campaigns, educational events, and other actions to support the right to abortion, contraception, and a person’s decision about their health.”
Pringle also vowed to “fight unceasingly for the rights of our LGBTQ-plus students and educators.”
“We will say gay. We will say trans,” she said in reference to Florida’s "Parental Rights in Education” law prohibiting sexual orientation or gender identity curricula in kindergarten through third grade.
As of publication time, there was no response to a request for comment by The Christian Post.
During this week’s conference, delegates voted in favor of the NEA taking “all necessary steps” to overturn the Florida law and others like it.
Pringle also vowed to leverage the NEA’s considerable political clout to hold lawmakers accountable when it comes to school shootings, warning that those who “refuse to keep our schools safe, while calling on us to take up arms” will face a backlash at the ballot box.
“If you stand against our students, we will stand against you. If you vote against our educators, we will vote against you,” she said. “This November, if you get in the way of our progress toward a more just nation, we will get in the way of your election.”
In the wake of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the assembly passed a measure that would allocate roughly $500,000 to provide a “unified response” to protect schools and neighboring communities from gun violence.
While several other measures were passed, some proposals — including a national policy of mandatory masking and COVID-19 vaccines in schools — were defeated.