Making Black lives matter at school

February 1, 2018

Teachers are organizing a national week of action February 5-10 around the theme of "Black Lives Matter at School" around the country, including in Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Washington, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, Detroit and more. Thousands of educators will wear Black Lives Matter shirts to school and teach lessons about institutional racism, Black identity and Black history.

The goal of Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools is to spark an ongoing movement of critical reflection and honest conversation in school communities for people of all ages to engage with critical issues of racial justice, according to a news release issued by the Black Lives Matter at School coalition. According to the press advisory:

Black students are over three times more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled from school. And Black girls are seven times more likely to be suspended than white girls--and not because they are even charged with misbehaving more often.

Since 2002, some 26,000 African American teachers have been pushed out of the nation's public schools, while the overall teaching workforce has increased by 134,000. As the recent textbook scandals in Connecticut and Texas reveal, corporate curriculum too often obscures the struggles and contributions to our nation by Black people and other people of color.

The week of action has garnered the endorsements of an impressive list of unions, including Seattle Education Association (NEA), United Teachers of Los Angeles (AFT), Milwaukee Education Association (NEA), Chicago Teachers Union (AFT Local 1), Maryland State Education Association (NEA), Baltimore Movement of Rank and File Educators (Baltimore Teachers Union) (AFT), Washington Teachers Union (AFT Local 6), New Jersey Caucus of Rank and File Educators (NEA), New Jersey Ed Association (NEA), Newark Teachers Union, Faculty and Staff Federation of the Community College of Philadelphia (AFT), Movement of Rank and File Educators of the United Federation of Teachers (AFT Local 2) and Boston Teachers Union (AFT Local 66).

"The opportunity gap between Black students and white students in Seattle Public Schools is growing and we are done waiting for change--We demand equity and we will be in the struggle for Black lives to matter at school until that basic fact is recognized by every single school," said Seattle NAACP education chair Rita Green.

"The BLM Week of Action in schools opens up a conversation about race and equity," said Stephanie Kadison, a biology teacher in New York City. "Learning about the Guiding Principles of BLM as a school community is an important first step in deepening our cultural sensitivity and embracing the diversity of our student population."

Here, SW reprints a statement published at Jesse Hagopian's I Am an Educator blog.

WE, THE undersigned, are writing in support of a new uprising for racial justice that is being organized by educators around the country who have declared February 5-9, 2018, "Black Lives Matter at School Week." Many thousands of educators will be wearing shirts to school that say, "Black Lives Matter at School" and will teach lessons about structural racism, intersectional Black identities and Black history in cities all across the country.

At a time when the president makes openly racist statements about Africa, Haiti and El Salvador, it is more important than ever to support antiracist pedagogy and support Black students. In addition, in this era of mass incarceration, there is a school-to-prison-pipeline system that is more invested in locking up youth than unlocking their minds.

That system uses harsh discipline policies that push Black students out of schools at disproportionate rates; denies students the right to learn about their own cultures and whitewashes the curriculum to exclude many of the struggles and contributions of Black people and other people of color; and is pushing out Black teachers from the schools in cities around the country. That is why we support the three demands issued by the Black Lives Matter at School movement:

Students and teachers stand against racism at Washington Middle School in Seattle
Students and teachers stand against racism at Washington Middle School in Seattle (Seattle Education Association | Facebook)

1) End zero tolerance discipline, implement restorative justice

2) Hire more Black teachers

3) Mandate Black history/Ethnic Studies, K-12

Show your solidarity during this week of struggle by wearing your Black Lives Matter shirt to school or to work.


Signatories

Curtis Acosta, Former Mexican American Studies Teacher, Assistant Professor, Language and Culture in Education, University of Arizona South
Sam Anderson, National Black Education Agenda, retired Math & Black History professor
Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, filmmaker, and founder/CEO of Define American
Wayne Au, Professor, School of Educational Studies, University of Washington Bothell
Bill Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education (retired), UIC
Michael Bennett, Pro Bowl defensive end, Seattle Seahawks
Bill Bigelow, Curriculum Editor, Rethinking Schools magazine
Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director, Advancement Project, National Office
John Carlos, Bronze-medal winner in the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Professor Emerita, Lesley University; Senior Advisor Defending the Early Years
Linda Christensen, Oregon Writing Project
Noura Erakat, Human Rights Attorney and Assistant Professor, George Mason University
Eve L. Ewing, University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration
Kevin James, Emcee Son of Nun, fmr. Baltimore City HS Teacher
Brian Jones, City University of New York Graduate Center
Joyce King, Benjamin E Mays Endowed Chair for Urban Teaching, Learning and Leadership, Georgia State University, President, The Academy for Diaspora Literacy, Inc.
Shaun King, Columnist for The Intercept
Jonathan Kozol, Teacher, Author, Shame of the Nation, Savage Inequalities, and the National Book Award-winner, Death at an Early Age
Jia Lee, Member, Movement Of Rank-and-file Educators and Change the Stakes/NYCOPTOUT
Edwin Mayorga, Assistant Professor, Swarthmore College, Dept. of Educational Studies, Prog. Latin American and Latino Studies
Deborah Menkart, Executive Director, Teaching for Change
Tom Morello, Musician, Rage Against the Machine, Prophets of Rage
Pedro A. Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
Nikkita Oliver, Community Organizer
Alex Caputo Pearl, President, United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA)
Bob Peterson, Rethinking Schools Editor, Past President of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association
Adam Sanchez, Organizer and curriculum writer, Zinn Education Project
David Stovall, Professor, Educational Policy Studies and African-American Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Assistant professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University
Opal Tometi, Co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter; Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)
Jose Luis Vilson, Math Teacher, NYC Department of Education, Executive Director, EduColor
Dyan Watson, Associate Professor of Education, Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling
Yohuru Williams, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, University of St. Thomas; Board of Directors, Network for Public Education

First published at the I Am an Educator blog.

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