A cultural revolution is happening in Seattle and around the country as we experience a collective awakening of individuals and institutions to the damages caused by centuries of white supremacy and systemic racism. It is becoming more apparent that K–12 schools continue to contribute to racial injustice, even in some of the most progressive districts.
Seattle Public Schools, despite passing a resolution in 2017, has yet to mandate, implement, and fully fund ethnic studies curriculum districtwide. While the Seattle district office claims to be committed to centering youth voices and serving students furthest from educational justice, they continue to merely pay lip service to the demands that have been clearly voiced by Garfield students for years. Yet the district’s recent decision to remove Tracy Castro-Gill as Head of Ethnic Studies for Seattle Public Schools has set back years of work by discrediting their own Ethnic Studies program and the many dedicated educators who have built it.
It’s time for school districts like Seattle to move forward in eradicating the harmful Eurocentric curriculum which has whitewashed American history, reinforced negative stereotypes, and drastically harmed the psyches of Black children and families for generations. The Racial Equity Education (REE) group is a collective of concerned citizens who are demanding reform of each individual district across the country. They demand that every school district in the United States implement Black experiences, history, perspectives and voices in K–12 curriculum. They aim to amplify the recommendations of educational activists who are already working in communities across the country to implement inclusive, antiracist ethnic studies programs and practices at the K–12 level. Districts are notified of REE’s demands through ongoing, weekly crowd-sourced campaigns, including emails, tweets, social media messages, and phone calls to school board representatives.
REE believes that by not taking immediate action on the demands to implement inclusive ethnic studies curricula at every grade level, schools continue to contribute to systemic racism and white supremacy. To that end, we amplify calls to action so that school districts understand — in no uncertain terms — both the next steps they need to take, and their own irresponsibility should they fail to take them.
Here are our stated demands, being broadcast in phases to every board member in every public school district in the United States of America:
- Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K–12 curriculum. This integration begins with equal coverage of African and African American arts and music along with an integration and emphasis on the contributions of Black artists, activists, revolutionaries, inventors, and scientists. All courses and content areas must weave Black history into their curriculum in deep and meaningful ways that show both Black contributions to the developments of the Arts and Sciences as well as the historical injustices that created barriers for Black people. Finally, connections between past injustices and current inequalities should be analyzed and examined.
- Require teachers and administrators to follow best practices for creating a safe climate for student learning and work. This includes having the necessary number of school social workers and counselors. The National Association of School Social Workers recommends a ratio of 1:50 or even lower for serving student populations with intensive needs.
- Actively facilitate family engagement in curriculum development or selection, as well as ongoing evaluation.
- Implement restorative justice practices, learn and consistently use de-escalation tactics, permanently remove police from all schools, and end “zero tolerance” discipline.
- Hire more Black and Brown teachers. Commit to increasing the hiring and retention of teachers that represent diverse cultural backgrounds.
- Invite speakers to present the topics of Black Lives Matter, racial justice, and white privilege.
- Undertake annual, third-party, holistic reviews from an anti-racism and anti-bias lens of curriculum, admissions, hiring process, and student body administration to search for areas of potential improvement in the fields of equity, inclusion, and diversity. In particular, critically evaluate textbooks, teaching strategies, and learning materials in relation to their role in perpetuating a dominant white-leaning bias narrative.
- Require annual racial equity literacy and anti-bias training for all K–12 teachers and in all pre-service teacher preparation programs.
- Appoint a district liaison to facilitate programs and follow-up with Racial Equity Education (firstname.lastname@example.org) on their implementation of each demand.
Featured image by COD Newsroom.