Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, an event started by teachers in Seattle in 2016, is a week-long focus on the 13 Guiding Principles of the Black Lives Matter movement. Such principles include “fostering a queer-affirming network” by freeing an individual from the “tight grip of heteronormative thinking.” The principles require commitment to “doing the work required to dismantle cis-gendered privilege and uplift Black trans folk,” and to “disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.”
As part of the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action National Demands, the organization calls for the mandating of Black history and ethnic studies. Ethnic studies is the focused study on how white supremacy and systemic racism is ever-present throughout society, celebrating past and present resistance movements, and how students themselves can become activists.
The “Week of Action” will be held from February 5-9, 2024, for most participating schools and districts.
On October 17, 2023, Black Lives Matter at School published a statement regarding Israel and Gaza that states:
“BLM@School wants to be clear in our recognition that this unfolding loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives is the direct result of decades of Israeli settler colonialism, land dispossession, occupation, blockade, apartheid, and attempted genocide of millions of Palestinians. Palestinians are reminding us that decolonization is not a metaphor or abstraction, but requires real, daily struggle.”
The organization states that “education should be wielded in service to struggle” and that teaching should “include Palestinian existence, resistance, culture, global contributions, and the ongoing struggle to realize a free Palestine.”
Following October 7, 2023, Black Lives Matter Chicago posted an image of a paraglider with a Palestinian flag and the text “That is all that is it!” and “I stand with Palestine.”
The Chicago Teachers Union states that Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action is “part of the CTU’s recognition of Black History Month – and our larger goal to lift up Black and Brown educators.”
The teachers union includes its “four basic demands” which include ending “Zero Tolerance” discipline and replacing it with restorative justice, mandating Black History and Ethnic Studies, hiring more Black teachers, and funding counselors rather than police officers.
CTU is participating in two weeks of Black Lives Matter at School which includes one week of workshops, educational events, curriculum showcases, and a second week to “teach truth about the history of Black excellence and Black oppression.”
A resources document provided by CTU includes a unit on reparations, the 1619 Project, the Zinn Project, and the Black Panther Party & Coalitions Learning Campaign.
Lessons and curriculum provided by the teachers union includes teaching preschool and kindergarteners the Black Panther Party (BPP) through activities such as The Black Panther Party Children’s Song, read alouds, and learning to count to ten by using the BPP’s 10 Point program.
In the summer of 2022, National Black Lives Matter at School endorsed and promoted the Democratic Socialists of America National BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group’s Educators for Palestine Series titled “Learning Toward Liberation: Rooting Our Pedagogy of Palestine in Humanity and Justice!”
The DSA’s Educators for Palestine Summer Series aimed “to create a space for education workers to come together with experts in the field of teaching Palestine to learn, discuss, and equip ourselves with the knowledge and practices needed to bring the truth about Palestine into our classrooms.”
Sessions included “Palestine: The History of a People” which focused on understanding “the history of its people and their heroic resistance to Zionism,” “Teaching Palestine with Humility” led by Jody Sokolower of the Middle East Children’s Alliance’s Teach Palestine Project and Lara Kiswani of Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), and “Navigating Pitfalls and Backlash.”
Read the full DSA report here.
The National Education Association teachers union provides a toolkit for educators for Black Lives Matter at School week.
The toolkit includes information about “Teaching for Black Lives Study Groups” which helps “educators explore how to teach about racism, resistance, and joy in free, teacher-led professional learning communities.”
The main facilitator for the groups is Jesse Hagopian, a teacher, an editor for Rethinking Schools, and staff at the Zinn Project, who has an upcoming book titled Teach Truth: The Attack on Critical Race Theory and the Struggle for Antiracist Education. On November 27, 2023, Hagopian published “Israel’s War on Gaza Is Also a War on History.”
The NEA “Black Lives Matter @ School Demands” claims that “certain politicians fuel divisions so they can take resources away from our schools while they let the wealthiest few get away with not paying their fair share. They then blame parents, teachers and students to distract from these failures.”
Washington Ethnic Studies Now (WAESN) and Seattle Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators are offering teachers a “BLM and Palestine Solidarity Teach-in” to prepare for BLM Week of Action. A post on X by the Seattle Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators promoting the event states that “Black liberation and Palestinian liberation is intertwined.”
The linked information page states that the teach-in is “led by educators connecting the Black Lives Matter at School Week organizing to stopping the ongoing genocide of Palestinians.” It goes on to claim that leaked information says the “Seattle Public Schools (SPS) planned to stop its support of Black Lives Matter at School Week because of the national Black Lives Matter at School coalition ‘supporting pro-Palestinian resistance movements and organizing.'” It finishes by stating that they “can’t allow SPS to betray both movements.”
Speakers at the event include Jesse Hagopian and Jeff Treistman.
In an April 2022 interview with Jeff Treistman, Washington Ethnic Studies Now executive director Tracey Castro-Gill stated that she has received criticism for her insistence that “most Jews are white” and her inclusion of “Israel as a settler-colonial state, and my support of Palestinian Studies in ethnic studies programs.” She continues: “Ethnic studies, historically, has never been about Jewish Studies. The focus has always been on racially minoritized groups.” She also adds that “White Jewish people insisting on being included in a curriculum that has never been about them reeks of white privilege.”
In December 2022, emails revealed that Castro-Gill expressed antisemitic views, which had found its way into professional development and materials that the organization had provided.
The Black Lives Matter at School Seattle Linktree page listed events including the “Palestine Solidarity Teach-in” and a school board protest on February 7.
Resources include a presentation titled BLM at School Demands, Seattle 2023 which has a slide stating “It’s Black History Month so remember African Enslavement is White history.”
As part of Berkeley Unified School District’s celebration of Black History Month, it is participating in Black Lives Matter at School Week. It states that the week “serves as an extension of the centering of racial justice set forth by #BlackLivesMatter within the BUSD Community” and that “discussions about anti-black racism and discrimination are encouraged in classrooms and at home.”
The school district website states that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s mission is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes,” while the movement “aims to dismantle white supremacy via combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy.”
BUSD’s Black History Month TK-8 Teaching Resource Guide shares links to lessons from Black Lives Matter at School and D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice. Other resources in the document include Woke Kindergarten and the curriculum from the 1619 Project.
A teacher resource titled 4 Things We Can Do to Prepare to Teach BLM at School Week calls upon teachers to “reflect upon” their own practice. This includes how teachers are implementing restorative justice practices, demanding mandated Black history and ethnic studies curricula, and ensuring classrooms are “Trans affirming and Queer affirming.”
Los Angeles Unified School District will teach students to support disrupting “Western nuclear family” and transgender issues during Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action despite the organization’s defense of Hamas.
Seaton Elementary School in the District of Columbia will be participating in the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. According to its site, the school “made the pledge this year to implement a schoolwide Black Lives Matter at School Plan of Action.” This includes honoring Black lives in “morning announcements, book read-alouds, math lessons, social-emotional activities, and more.”
A linked document titled “How to talk to young children about the Black Lives Matter Guiding Principles” is intended to promote “age-appropriate language” so students can understand the concepts. In it, the guiding principles are defined including the principle of “Queer Affirming” which states that it is “working towards a queer-affirming network where heteronormative thinking no longer exists.”
Spirit Week dress for BLM Week includes wearing red which “represents the blood that unites people of Black African ancestry,” wearing colors “inspired by the inclusive Rainbow Flag,” and wearing “logos or colors inspired by BLM, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).”
Other resources for the week include videos and lessons such as Julian is a Mermaid, Looking at Race and Racial Identity in Books, BLM coloring books, and Black American Sign Language. The page also encourages families and students to support black-owned businesses in DC.