L.A. high school second to adopt whole-school model for human rights education

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights staff and a group of educators in Los Angeles formally began a new partnership in late April as the Business in Artivism Management (BAM) Learning Community at Edward Roybal Learning Center prepares to become the nation’s second “human rights centered school.” The initiative involves centering human rights education (HRE) as a means to advancing social-emotional outcomes and activism in the school’s curriculum, practices, and culture.

The partnership provides teachers at BAM at Roybal Learning Center with professional training and development from the world-renowned Speak Truth to Power human rights education team at RFK Human Rights and helps the entire school adopt systems and structures that cultivate an inclusive, dignity-driven learning environment.

During an April 22–23 workshop at Roybal’s campus, Speak Truth to Power’s Karen Robinson, program director, and Adnan Karim, managing director of human rights education, worked with longtime STTP lead educator Estella Owoimaha-Church, a theater teacher at BAM, to bring high school faculty and staff up to speed on the history of human rights, key components of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and ways to include HRE in areas such as the civics and citizenship curriculum, history, and nonformal education. Participants learned how RFKHR’s international partners have successfully used HRE to establish equality and build global communities.

After two full days, Karim said, educators left motivated and inspired to carry out HRE work.

Owoimaha-Church learned about STTP in 2012 at a performance of Speak Truth to Power, the play by Ariel Dorfman, and in fall 2015 she produced the play for the community to commemorate International Human Rights Day. She regularly incorporates the play, STTP defender stories, and UDHR in her classes, and she continues to train fellow educators and artists in her region who seek to promote the human rights and social justice education movements.

This ambitious whole-school model at Roybal is a natural outgrowth of Owoimaha-Church’s foundational work, Robinson said. “Bringing human rights education and social-emotional well-being into schools is not a new concept, but what’s refreshing and truly innovative is that these principles will be applied beyond the curriculum to impact the very culture and practices of the school itself on a broad scale,” she said. “This comprehensive and unified approach is essential to creating the awareness, empathy, and understanding needed for progress and growth.”

BAM has integrated the whole-school model into its strategic plan for the 2022–23 school year. Guidance counselors will set required volunteer hours for the students as well as create space for human rights-related field experiences for them in partnership with STTP.

For more information on RFK Human Rights and its Speak Truth to Power human rights education programs, visit