Jill Biden ‘frustrated’ by people dividing teachers and parents
Jill Biden ‘frustrated’ by people dividing teachers and parents

First lady Jill Biden countered the idea Friday that parents and teachers are in a far-reaching conflict over how to guide the nation's young people, a nod to educators to see past the partisanship sweeping much of the country.

Biden, who has been teaching for more than 30 years, said the relationship between educators and parents is something the founders of the PTA understood was designed to give students a better education.

“I’ve been frustrated by those who have tried to divide us in these last few years,” she said at the National PTA’s 125th Anniversary Convention in National Harbor, Md. “From reopening schools to class curriculum, we’ve been told that parents and teachers are at odds. But as I visit schools and meet with families, that’s not what I’ve seen.”

States across the country have drafted legislation that would limit how race, gender identity and sexual orientation are taught in classrooms, with many bills being packaged as parental rights policies. Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, a measure dubbed as “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, sparked similar legislation across the country aimed at limiting how gender identity and sexual orientation are addressed in the schools.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday directing government officials to create a plan to protect and expand access to health care for LGBTQ individuals and youth. Part of the executive order instructs the Education Department to establish a working group of LGBTQ students and families to advance policies at the state and school district level that would promote a safe and inclusive environment.

Echoing Biden’s prime-time address demanding gun legislation, the first lady also used her convention remarks to call on Congress to pass gun safety legislation. Last week, a bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement on the framework for gun safety legislation.

“It’s up to Congress to act. And they represent the will of the people, and that’s why we need the people to speak up — parents and teachers, all of us,” she said. “We need to fight now for the lives of our children and for the safety of our schools.”

Later on Friday, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona will participate in a panel at the PTA convention to discuss maximizing in-person learning and a path forward from the pandemic.