The Atlanta Public Schools Leadership Academy advocates for teachers and administration to “critique ‘color-blindness'” and self-examine their own “identity and role in historically inequitable structures.”

Incidents


In 2022, Atlanta Public Schools produced its updated “Guidelines for Teaching Controversial Issues: A Toolkit for Equity and Empowerment.” “The Opening Charge” was written by the district’s Chief Equity and Social Justice Officer Dr. Tauheedah Baker-Jones. In the one page note to district educators and staff, Baker-Jones wrote that “Failure to accept these responsibilities threatens our democracy and ill prepares our students for the interconnected world they are inheriting.”

The District Chief Equity and Social Justice Officer states in the opening text that the document “includes an outline of staff and student behavioral norms and expectations as we engage in this work, supports with lesson plans that align with our graduate portrait and social studies/civics curriculum, professional development tools for educators, a directory of internal and external supports for students, our Policy on Teaching Controversial Issues, and a list of additional supports for staff.”

The document continues by answering why it is important to teach “controversial issues” to students. The section concluded by stating that “To this end, Atlanta Public Schools supports teaching controversial issues as an equitable strategic priority that disrupts systemic barriers that have harmed the academic, social, and emotional well-being of all students.”

The district defines using an equity lens as “The process of paying disciplined attention to historically marginalized populations (race, ethnicity, ability, etc.) while analyzing problems, looking for solutions, and defining success.” The document continues by stating that an equity lens “critiques a ‘color blind’ or ‘equality of need’ approach, arguing that these lenses perpetuate systems of disadvantage and prevent structural racism from being acknowledged. Application of an equity lens helps to illuminate disparate outcomes, patterns of disadvantage, and root cause.”

A linked document titled “Equity Leadership Dispositions,” states that “leaders must cultivate and maintain a deep understanding of how privilege, power, and oppression operate, historically and currently in school and society.”

The second disposition explains that “Those leading for equity must demonstrate that addressing racial inequity is a priority. Leaders accomplish this by consistently naming equity as a driving force behind leadership actions and decisions.” Citing from Pacific Educational Group founder Glen Singelton’s work, the document states that “There can be an anxiety and fear in offending, appearing angry, or sounding ignorant when discussing issues of race and inequality”

As part of the Equity Leadership Disposition, in order for the school system to “evolve” the organizational structure “must be transformed.” In addition, the document asserts that “Students that embody one or many of these characteristics have been minoritized by society and individuals telling them that they are less than and incapable of the skills and abilities of white dominant culture.”

Another linked document titled “Equity Teacher Dispositions” positions that “six research-based equity dispositions form the foundation of our ‘Transformative Pedagogy’ philosophy and are vitally important for teachers committed to building a culturally and linguistically responsive classroom community by, with and for every child.”

The dispositions listed in the teacher document require that teachers self-examine their own “identity and role in historically inequitable structures.” It further calls for teachers to create a classroom where “Students learn about the history of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and religious intolerance, and how these forms of oppression have shaped people‚Äôs lived experiences today.”