In January 2022, the front page of the DeKalb County School District’s website promoted a “Black Lives Matter at DeKalb Schools” week of action for January 31 through February 4. The image promoting the Black Lives Matter event links to a page featuring six sessions of a live virtual symposium that will take place during the week of action. Two of the sessions appear to be explicitly political. The fifth session is called “Wealth Equity in the Black Community,” and the sixth session is called “For the People, by the People: The Unbalanced Judicial and Legislative Systems.” The school district outright states in the description of the wealth equity session that “closing the racial wealth gap requires heavy lifting and progressive thinking.”
The week of action page also includes resources to promote the Black Lives Matter movement. One resource is called “BLM School Instructional Activities Lesson Plans.” Lesson plans included in the document are titled “Looking at Race and Racial Identity in Children’s Books,” “Examining Identity and Assimilation,” Visualizing School Equity,” “What Is Environmental Justice,” and “Discovering My Identity.” The “Discovering My Identity” lesson plan explains that “students will describe aspects of their identities such as race, gender, ability, religion and more.”
Each lesson plan in the document links to the organization “Learning for Justice.” The organization is known for offering resources to help educators teach their students about “social justice” and equity. One resource that Learning for Justice specifically offers is called the “Social Justice Standards.” The document for these standards includes goals to achieve for students. One goal is that “students will develop language and historical and cultural knowledge that affirm and accurately describe their membership in multiple identity groups.” Another goal appears to outright state that the purpose of the “Social Justice Standards” is to turn students into political activists: “Students will make principled decisions about when and how to take a stand against bias and injustice in their everyday lives and will do so despite negative peer or group pressure.”
Another resource for educators that Learning for Justice provides is called “Gender and Sexual Identity.” The resource explains to “teach the facts about sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and learn how to advocate for LGBTQ youth.” Learning for Justice also has a page on its website that tries to teach the perceived differences among “biological sex,” “gender identity,” “gender expression,” and “sexual orientation.” The organization advocates for teaching young children about gender identity by stating that “studies show that children of any age are able to understand that there are more than two gender categories when the concept is explained to them in a simple, age-appropriate manner.”
A concerned parent reached out to Parents Defending Education to explain that teachers in the school district may now be implementing material involving gender identity into their classrooms. PDE received a screenshot from a private Facebook group for parents with children in Fernbank Elementary School. A parent posted in this group that her child in third grade came home asking what the term “non-binary” meant because her teacher said for “girls,” “boys,” and “non-binaries” to line up to go to the restroom.
The school district’s week of action page includes additional resources labeled “BLM at DeKalb Schools Week of Action – School Daily Activities” and “BLM Black-Owned Businesses.” The “School Daily Activities” document shows what the school district will be supporting on each day of its week of action. These activities involve specifically “celebrating black-owned businesses,” “celebrating black culture,” and “celebrating Black Lives Matter.” The “BLM Black-Owned Businesses” document exclusively points out and lists black-owned businesses in DeKalb County.
The week of action page also promotes a video called “Black Lives Matter at School” that pushes “racial equity.” The video features an image that appears to demand schools to “mandate black history and ethnic studies.” (Time Stamp: 1:08) Another video the page promotes is called “What Black Lives Matter means to an 11-year-old.” The narrator of the video says that the United States “is stuck in 1920.” (Time Stamp: 0:15)
The week of action page features a reading list of “Young Adult Novels” that links to an article that names over 50 books. The article has a list of “criteria” for the books to meet before they can be added to the list. One criteria states that books can only have “black main characters” and specifically mentions to “not add books with biracial/mixed/’black biracial’ or black ‘identifying’ protagonists or authors.” Some of the books appear to push political messages like Malcolm and Me and The Voting Booth.