National PTA is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2021 Outstanding Advocacy Awards. The annual awards honor state, local and individual PTA advocates for taking action to improve the education, health, safety and well-being of every child. New this year, National PTA is also honoring a PTA for advocacy specifically in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. The honorees will be recognized during the 2021 National PTA Virtual Legislative Conference, Wednesday, March 10.
This year’s recipients are:
- Outstanding State PTA Advocacy Award—New York State PTA
New York State PTA demonstrated outstanding dedication and leadership through their nimble and highly effective response to the many hardships wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. New York State PTA advocated on a multitude of issues relating to the pandemic and impacting students and families, while also forging new partnerships to ensure effective advocacy. Through a sustained and comprehensive communication, marketing and outreach strategy, New York State PTA members and non-members received multiple touchpoints and messages highlighting their advocacy efforts, detailing available resources, offering education on relevant topics, and targeting underserved communities and families. The advocacy plan was crafted to be holistic and serve all types of PTA units and members, including rural and urban communities, families with varying income levels, students with disabilities and their families, LGBTQ+ students, educators and their families, ELL students and families, documented and undocumented immigrant families, and other populations.
- Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy Award—Fairfax County Special Education PTA (Virginia)
Fairfax County Special Education PTA demonstrated true dedication and leadership through their determined advocacy on the issue of restraint and seclusion in schools. The use of restraint and seclusion in schools has been shown to cause post-traumatic stress disorder, physical injury and even death. Additionally, these practices are disproportionately used against students with disabilities and students of color, making this an issue of racial equity as well as one of access to a free and appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. To advance their advocacy, Fairfax County Special Education PTA collaborated with partners and adopted a position statement, utilizing National PTA’s 2015 resolution on restraint and seclusion as well as National PTA’s endorsement of the 2020 Keeping All Students Safe Act. Fairfax County Special Education PTA also engaged their community to call upon their school board for massive reforms regarding the use and documentation of restraint and seclusion in Fairfax County Public Schools. As a result of their advocacy, a new policy was passed on Dec. 17, 2020, banning seclusion and limiting restraint use in Fairfax County Public Schools.
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advocacy Award—Seattle Council PTSA (Washington)
Seattle Council PTSA demonstrated leadership and dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion through their advocacy for better school policy. Specifically, Seattle Council PTSA advocated for an anti-racism policy in Seattle Public Schools, as well as an anti-racism resolution from Washington State PTA that was adopted by the 2020 Legislative Assembly. To accomplish the goal of creating an anti-racism policy, Seattle Council PTSA conducted a series of well-publicized and successful community engagement sessions to discuss the policy. Additionally, Seattle Council PTSA facilitated listening sessions in English and Spanish for Black, Indigenous and people of color with the Seattle Education Association as well as King County Public Health Authorities. The policy has been the subject of intense interest and discussion by their school board and is expected to be passed by the school board.
- Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Award—Jenna Alexander (Hamilton, Va.)
Jenna Alexander serves as vice president of advocacy for Virginia PTA. Throughout her term, she built an advocacy committee that includes representatives for each of Virginia’s active districts. During COVID-19, Alexander engaged the advocacy committee to focus on issues facing the community, organizing a series of webinars, developing a social media toolkit, initiating an email campaign directed toward the Virginia General Assembly and federal legislators, and launching a social media campaign and virtual rally to call on legislators to restore funding for education. Alexander makes sure that all voices are heard and valued. Her leadership, compassion and determination to make the lives of all children better is what makes her shine.
- Outstanding Youth Advocate of the Year Award—Bailey Proctor (Elmsford, N.Y.)
Through leadership, dedication and creativity, Bailey Proctor raised awareness of social justice and education equity policies in the Elmsford Union Free School District. Proctor created a student activism club called R.E.A.C.H., which stands for Raiders for Education, Action and Change, and helped organize a Black Lives Matter rally for the Elmsford community. She is a member of the student-only District Equity Team, and serves as the 2020-2021 student representative for Elmsford PTSA. Thanks to her leadership, the PTSA has seen an increase in student membership. Proctor’s determination has inspired Elmsford PTSA members to hold difficult conversations about the practices that stifle the community’s growth. She has modeled and empowered her peers and community to speak on the issues that impact student life.
“PTAs across the country have heard their community’s cry for help during the pandemic and for racial justice, and they have responded. We are advocating every day to safeguard the education, health and safety of our nation’s children and make sure students, families, schools and communities have what they need during this challenging time in our country,” said Leslie Boggs, president of National PTA. “We are pleased to recognize the outstanding efforts of New York State PTA, Fairfax County Special Education PTA, Seattle Council PTSA, Jenna and Bailey, and we look forward to celebrating them during our virtual legislative conference.”
Every year, the National PTA Legislative Conference brings together PTA leaders and advocates from across the country to take action on the association’s public policy priorities.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Legislative Conference will be virtual. During the conference—themed “PTA Takes Action Together for Every Child”—attendees will hear from speakers and participate in workshops to expand their knowledge of federal law, grow their advocacy skills and learn how to shape public policy on Capitol Hill and at home. Participants will also hear PTA advocacy success stories and explore National PTA’s public policy priorities for the 117th Congress. Additionally, they will amplify their voices by meeting virtually with their federal representatives, Wednesday, March 10.
“National PTA will work with the 117th Congress, the U.S. Department of Education and the Biden/Harris Administration to ensure that every child has access to a fair and equitable education,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA Executive Director. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a bright light on and exacerbated inequities in our public education system. This next phase of ‘returning to school’ is an important chance to ensure every child has every opportunity to reach their fullest potential, regardless of their zip code.”