Person

Kevin F. Gilbert

Kevin F. Gilbert is a public education official and labor union activist who has sat on the executive committee of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the United States and a major contributor to left-of-center political causes. [1] He previously served in a variety of administrative and union roles related to public education, and currently serves as the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Howard County, Maryland, public school system. [2]

As a public school official, Gilbert has directed school administrators to enable and normalize the practice of schoolchildren identifying as a gender other than their sex apparent at birth. [3] As an NEA executive committee member and education policy advocate, Gilbert has pushed for more liberal school disciplinary policies. [4][5]

Gilbert is originally from Ridgeland, Mississippi. [6] He earned his bachelor of arts and master of science degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi, and his education specialist and doctorate degrees from Mississippi College. [7]

Career

Gilbert has worked at schools throughout the Mississippi public school system. He also worked as president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, a teachers union affiliated with the NEA. [8][9]

Gilbert joined the NEA executive committee in 2013, and was re-elected in 2016. As a member of the committee, Gilbert asserted that “institutional racism” was an issue in the public school system and said that “eradicating” it should be a top priority for the NEA. [10] Gilbert advocated for left-progressive policies to address the “school-to-prison pipeline” – the idea that school policies lead students of minority backgrounds to have more interactions with law enforcement. [11] As of 2020, he is no longer listed as a member of the committee. [12]

Gilbert was a keynote speaker at the 2017 Western Wisconsin Education Conference, where he gave a speech titled “Racial Justice in Education.” [13]

As director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Howard County, Maryland public school system, Gilbert issued a memorandum to county school administrators that included guidelines for “supporting transgender and gender nonconforming students.” The memorandum defined “gender,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” as separate concepts, suggesting that school-age children could have a different “internal, personal sense of one’s gender” than their biological sex. The memorandum also instructed schools to “accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity” and that a student who says they are a girl or a boy should be addressed as such, regardless of their apparent sex. Furthermore, the memorandum directed schools to “reduce or eliminate the practice of segregating students by gender” in educational environments, as well as restrooms and locker rooms. Finally, the memorandum stated that a student can compete on a sports team based only on “the gender the student identifies with.” [14]

In November 2020, the online publication Parents cited Gilbert in an article that blamed “inequity in public schools” for the disproportionate rate at which black and Hispanic students are involved in disciplinary procedures. Gilbert criticized zero-tolerance conduct policies and the use of law enforcement officers in schools, and said that “schools should train teachers in culturally responsive teaching practices, which help eliminate the student-teacher dynamic.” [15]

Controversies

In October 2015, Gilbert and other NEA executives were named in a petition by rank-and-file NEA members which alleged that NEA leadership had voted to endorse Hillary Clinton for President in the Democratic primary election “at the behest of NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia” and “without polling membership.” The petitioners wanted teachers to have “an opportunity to scrutinize candidates’ positions on a variety of pressing issues” and “a voice in the final decision.” The petition demanded that NEA leadership rescind their “hollow” endorsement, which allegedly “does not reflect the collective voice” of the NEA’s three million members. The petition received 820 signatures. Leaked emails from the Clinton campaign indicate that NEA leadership had effectively decided on their endorsement of Clinton ahead of time. [16]

References

  1.       Brenda Álvarez, “Michigan and Mississippi educators Reelected to NEA Executive Committee; New Leaders Elected to NEA Board of Directors,” National Education Association, July 6, 2016. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://ra.nea.org/2016/07/06/michigan-mississippi-educators-reelected-nea-executive-committee-new-leaders-elected-nea-board-directors/ ^
  2.   HCPSS Executive Leadership Team, Howard County Public School System. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://www.hcpss.org/superintendent/leadership-team/ ^
  3.      Kevin F. Gilbert, “Guidelines for Supporting Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” Howard County Public School System, October 8, 2018. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://mpia.hcpss.org/sites/default/files/2018-10/Guidelines%20for%20Supporting%20Transgender%20and%20Gender%20Nonconforming%20Students%2010.8.18.pdf ^
  4.        Brenda Álvarez, “NEA Takes a Stand on the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” National Education Association, July 6, 2016. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://ra.nea.org/2016/07/06/nea-takes-stand-school-prison-pipeline/ ^
  5.        Chanté Griffin, “There’s a Student-to-Prison Pipeline Happening in Schools and the Unfair Disciplining of Black and Latino Students is Feeding It,” Parents, November 20, 2020. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://www.parents.com/kids/education/theres-a-student-to-prison-pipeline-happening-in-schools-and-the-unfair-disciplining-of-blank-and-latino-students-is-feeding-it/ ^
  6.        About Our Keynote Speakers, 2017 Western Wisconsin Education Conference. Accessed December 22, 2020. http://www.wweconference.com/sessions-1/keynote-speaker/ ^
  7. Brenda Álvarez, “Michigan and Mississippi educators Reelected to NEA Executive Committee; New Leaders Elected to NEA Board of Directors,” National Education Association, July 6, 2016. Accessed December 22, 2020.https://ra.nea.org/2016/07/06/michigan-mississippi-educators-reelected-nea-executive-committee-new-leaders-elected-nea-board-directors/ ^
  8.       Brenda Álvarez, “Michigan and Mississippi educators Reelected to NEA Executive Committee; New Leaders Elected to NEA Board of Directors,” National Education Association, July 6, 2016. Accessed December 22, 2020.https://ra.nea.org/2016/07/06/michigan-mississippi-educators-reelected-nea-executive-committee-new-leaders-elected-nea-board-directors/ ^
  9.        MAE History, Mississippi Association of Educators. Accessed December 22, 2020.http://maetoday.org/about/history/ ^
  10.        Brenda Álvarez, “Michigan and Mississippi educators Reelected to NEA Executive Committee; New Leaders Elected to NEA Board of Directors,” National Education Association, July 6, 2016. Accessed December 22, 2020.https://ra.nea.org/2016/07/06/michigan-mississippi-educators-reelected-nea-executive-committee-new-leaders-elected-nea-board-directors/ ^
  11.        Brenda Álvarez, “NEA Takes a Stand on the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” National Education Association, July 6, 2016. Accessed December 22, 2020.https://ra.nea.org/2016/07/06/nea-takes-stand-school-prison-pipeline/ ^
  12. Our Executive Committee, National Education Association. Accessed December 22, 2020.https://www.nea.org/about-nea/leaders/executive-committee ^
  13. About Our Keynote Speakers, 2017 Western Wisconsin Education Conference. Accessed December 22, 2020. http://www.wweconference.com/sessions-1/keynote-speaker/ ^
  14.          Kevin F. Gilbert, “Guidelines for Supporting Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” Howard County Public School System, October 8, 2018. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://mpia.hcpss.org/sites/default/files/2018-10/Guidelines%20for%20Supporting%20Transgender%20and%20Gender%20Nonconforming%20Students%2010.8.18.pdf ^
  15.        Chanté Griffin, “There’s a Student-to-Prison Pipeline Happening in Schools and the Unfair Disciplining of Black and Latino Students is Feeding It,” Parents, November 20, 2020. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://www.parents.com/kids/education/theres-a-student-to-prison-pipeline-happening-in-schools-and-the-unfair-disciplining-of-blank-and-latino-students-is-feeding-it/ ^
  16.        Mike Antonucci, “Analysis: How NEA Brass Made Sure the Union Endorsed Clinton — Even If It Didn’t Want To,” The 74 Million, October 18, 2016. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://www.the74million.org/article/analysis-how-nea-brass-made-sure-the-union-endorsed-clinton-even-if-it-didnt-want-to/ ^

Connected Organizations

  1. National Education Association (NEA) (Labor Union)
    Member, Executive Committee
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