SAN FRANCISCO — The ACLU of Northern California proudly recognized Jim McQuillen, a Yurok Tribal member and dynamic champion for California’s indigenous students in Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, with the 2017 Chief Justice Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award at Bill of Rights Day on December 3. The award honors individuals who have distinguished themselves as leaders in the battle to preserve and expand civil rights and liberties.
Mr. McQuillen has worked tirelessly to empower American Indian youth and strengthen minority students’ civil rights. Through his ongoing leadership, local American Indian history, language, and culture are now included in many public school classrooms in Del Norte and Humboldt Counties. He strongly advocates for all local Del Norte K-12 teachers, administration and staff to use the curriculum, created by the Yurok Tribe, on local American Indian history and culture for grades 3,4,5,8 and 11th grades.
“In an age appropriate way, I would like to see all of the local school districts incorporate this course into grades K-12. There is a large body of data-driven research, which shows that American Indian students perform better when their culture and heritage are acknowledged in the classroom,” said McQuillen. “We still have much more work to do to provide our students with the best possible educational environment.”
Mr. McQuillen has also promoted restorative justice practices as a proven alternative to traditional school disciplinary processes, and has worked to expand professional development opportunities for all staff on the topics of race, inclusion, culture, and implicit bias in the classroom. He has encouraged school districts to continue to regularly and publically present data from the American Indian Report Card, a report that tracks the academic performance of Native students, to their Board of Trustees, in order to give an overview of the progress that the counties have made, as well as the obstacles that have yet to be overcome.
The ACLU of Northern California is inspired by Jim McQuillen’s service and dedication and is honored to celebrate his leadership with this award. Both McQuillen and the ACLU will continue to push for inclusion and equity for Northern California’s Native youth.