The principal of MS 447 sent an email to parents stating that the middle school will be celebrating the “Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action” for three weeks in February 2022. She explained that “students had lessons in Pack meetings and Advisory” in the first week and “will have grade assemblies with some explicit learning about the Black Lives Matter movement as well as student performances” in the second week. The third week will have “closing lessons.” In her email, the principal discussed the perceived importance of discussing race with the teachers at her school:
We wanted to be able to confront our individual and institutional biases that stand in the way of racial equity. In seeking expert assistance, we worked with Border Crossers (now the Center for Racial Justice in Education). As a full staff, we spent that year in ongoing sessions with our CRJE trainers, exploring the impact of race and racism on ourselves, and its impact in our school and world. Our conversations, though difficult, created a space in which race could be named and examined. It allowed us to move our discussion about our racial identities from theoretical to personal. For me, and I believe for many teachers, it nurtured courage in our interactions with students—courage to question our assumptions and start new conversations.
The principal then discussed how her school established a “staff Equity and Diversity Team” in an effort to become an “anti-racist school.” She also bragged that her school “rewrote” its admission policies “to reclaim the diversity of the district through a more equitable process.” She continued to explain that teachers in her school have been part of programs such as “Critically Conscious Educators Rising” and “Teachers College Reimagining Education Conference on Teaching and Learning in Racially Diverse Schools.” She also explained that teachers are changing the school’s curriculum to include race:
Teachers and teams began working on curricular changes that encouraged learning and conversation about race, and allowed a broader slice of our students to see themselves reflected in the curriculum. We strengthened and focused our advisory program to become a critical and safe structure to have sometimes-difficult conversations about race in restorative community building circles.
The principal mentioned that the school established “staff racial affinity groups to explore our own racial identities and relationships with race and racism.” She said that these affinity groups are still active “as part of our work to break down racism that exists within our own school systems and structures, and in our interactions with each other and our students.”
She also explained that “discomfort” was the key to moving forward on racial issues:
I say with total conviction that it is through the difficulty and discomfort of our conversations that we are able to learn together, to imagine the possibilities and forge a path of disrupting racism in our school and world. And it is through that discomfort that we can move forward, to see ourselves on a continuum, rather than being finished, and to help teach our students to also be able to speak of race and disrupt racism.
The principal concluded the email by promoting the “Black Lives Matter at School” organization. She said that promoting Black Lives Matter at School “is a recognition that unexamined impacts of racism in the educational system in the United States has led to disproportionately harsh consequences for Black students, and that many Black students don’t see themselves or their culture reflected in their teachers or curriculum.” She ended the email by stating that the goal of the Black Lives Matter at School work is to instill a “sense of justice” into children at her school:
We look forward to our fourth year of participation in Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, and I hope you are excited to be part of this meaningful and loving work we do to provide tools and a sense of justice and anti-racism to our children.