Empowering US Schools to Defend Human Rights During the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 22, 2020 1:00 PM ET

In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom stated that, “All countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimizing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights.” The COVID-19 global pandemic impacts all sectors of society, to which human rights serve as the cornerstone. But human rights are often waylaid by pressures, such as stigmas, economic focuses, and access issues.

In a report, the WHO finds that the pandemic impacts groups differently. Stigma and discrimination can run rampant by wrongfully associating the disease with certain populations. During a public health crisis, there are many rights at risk

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) from the United Nations outlines all people’s human rights. Article 19 of the UDHR is the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through media. As we all work to wrap our heads around the short and long term lived impacts of the pandemic, understanding the rights at the center of it all is essential. 

One way to integrate the human rights conversation into learning is with the no cost digital resources from Speak Truth to Power – an educational program created in partnership between Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Discovery Education. Speak Truth to Power introduce students to influential human rights defenders through powerful storytelling and interactive learning tools. The program aims to inspire passion and action among today’s youth to prevent human rights abuses and violations around the world. 

The program offers a Master Class series that is specifically designed for educators seeking to learn how to bring human rights education into their classrooms. By providing teachers the knowledge and tools to include standards-aligned materials focused on human rights, students are empowered to speak truth to power in support of human rights. The Master Class series highlights five incredible human rights educators across the United States. 

Each part of the Speak Truth to Power Master Class series shares best practices  for strengthening teacher’s capacity in bringing human rights education into the classroom.  The series demonstrates how human rights education truly transforms  student's attitudes and behaviors towards those in their own communities and  and the world, and how to foster the next generation of human rights defenders by taking bold and mindful action using engaging 21st century content.

Upholding human rights is the responsibility of all of us. As Kerry Kennedy – the President of the RFK Foundation – highlighted in a recent op-ed, education is a human right that must be focused on, especially in the transitional digital age. Help empower educators empower students with the courage to fight injustice and raise new voices in defense of rights by bringing human rights to the digital classroom.

All the RFK Speak Truth to Power resources are available at speaktruthtopowerinschool.com and through Discovery Education Experience.