October 8, 2021
Dear Parents and Families,
Commissioner Rosa
I hope you are enjoying the fall. In today’s letter, I would like to take the opportunity to provide you with some recent news and important updates from the New York State Education Department (NYSED). The topics in this letter all directly support our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy, including guidance on the CROWN Act that prohibits racial discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyles; new grant awards to increase the diversity of our workforce in schools across the state; and an opportunity for families to engage in activities to help New York State improve outcomes for students with disabilities.
In honor of International Day of the Girl, NYSED today released guidance to assist local education agencies in their obligation to implement and educate students about the CROWN Act. The CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, prohibits racial discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyles and protects students’ rights to wear or treat their hair however they desire, without the threat of racial discrimination or loss of access to school. Each year on October 11, International Day of the Girl celebrates the importance, power, and potential of girls around the world.
In 2019, the Dignity for All Students Act, or DASA, was amended by the CROWN Act to add the definition of race that includes traits such as hair texture and protective hairstyles such as locs, braids, and twists to protect students’ access to their public education regardless of how they choose to wear or style their hair. While DASA already protects the right of all students to learn in schools free of discrimination, harassment, and bullying, it was clarified that those rights include self-expression through hair style. For additional information on the CROWN Act or DASA, please visit NYSED’s Dignity for All Students Act website.
We are fortunate to live in one of the most diverse and culturally rich states in the nation. Unfortunately, in many cases, our workforce of educators does not reflect the diversity we see across the state. Students taught by teachers that look like them benefit both academically and emotionally. NYSED recently awarded $3.45 million in Teacher Opportunity Corps II (TOC II) grants to 17 New York colleges and universities to increase the rate of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals in teaching careers. The project period is September 1, 2021 - August 31, 2026, with an anticipated allocation of $3.45 million annually. Programs like TOC II can deliver a more diverse workforce to schools across the state, and we must continue to support them.
October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, and NYSED is seeking to engage stakeholders in activities to improve outcomes for students with disabilities in New York State. NYSED is currently developing the 2020-2025 Special Education State Performance Plan (SPP)/Annual Performance Report (APR), and as parents and family members, your input is extremely important. Stakeholder engagement activities will include input through online surveys and​ virtual meetings with stakeholder groups in November 2021.
Additional information about the SPP/APR, including an SPP/APR Overview webinar and At-a-Glance State Performance Plan: Summary of Indicators 1-17, as well as information on how to register to participate in the November 2021 virtual stakeholder meetings, may be found on the SPP/APR Stakeholder Involvement webpagePre-registration is required by October 24, 2021. I strongly encourage you to participate and to share this information with other families in your communities.
I appreciate everything you do for your children, schools, and communities. Thank you for your support.

Betty A. Rosa