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 6-10, 2023, for most participating schools and districts.
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
In 2021, an AFT resolution states that the national teachers union “will endorse participation in Black Lives Matter at School Week to being during Black History Month the week of Feb. 1-5, 2021, and in subsequent years.” The resolution continues by stating that the AFT will “host events during or around this week and engage in advocacy on an ongoing basis.” It also is aligned with “national demands” for the “proper implementation of restorative practices in schools” and “funding more counselors in schools as opposed to police officers.” The union will also “encourage its members to wear Black Lives Matter at School shirts to school that week and teach lessons about related topics.”
American School Counselor Association (ASCA)
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) promotes participation in Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. This year, the ASCA is also running its National School Counseling Week at the same time.
National Education Association
The National Education Association promotes the2023 Black Lives Matter at School week to its union members. It states that the goal of the Week of Action is to “continue the ongoing movement of critical reflection and honest conversation and impactful actions in school communities.” The NEA highlights how a teacher from Paterson, N.J. uses the Week of Action to teach his fourth-grade math students about “colorism.” The webpage defines colorism as “a form of discrimination based on skin color, which often privileges people with lighter skin complexions within a racial group, positioning people with darker complexions at the bottom of the racial hierarchy.”
In 2022, the Aurora School in California, a private K-8 institution, incorporated “Julian is a Mermaid – Drag Queen Story Hour” into its lesson planning for K-3 graders. The video, hosted on the YouTube channel “Queer Kid Stuff,” is labeled for kids ages 3+ and features a “tie wearing queer lady,” “her non-binary best-stuffed friend, Teddy” and Angel from Drag Queen Story Hour.
Another lesson plan asks students to create a “family ‘pledge card’ or poster” for their home that demonstrates the student’s individual and family commitment to the BLM principles. Other lessons include having students as young as kindergarten “audit” their bookshelf to “see how well it represents the diversity of the world,” encouraging students to admit guilt over hurting “someone’s feelings – including about race,” and recommending students “call or email” their city councilperson to “share an idea or proposal about an issue” that “improves Black lives.”
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice
The D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice, a project of Teaching for Change, is a “network of educators who seek to strengthen and deepen social justice teaching.” The D.C. based group runs a yearly planning meeting for the week-long instructional series. As a result, the group has created a resource page for educators including lesson plans, posters, videos, and other materials. These resources are intended for use during the 2023 Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. The plans are also utilized by other districts across the country.
The Early Childhood & Elementary Resources page includes the PK-2 lesson titled “Introduction of Transgender and Nonbinary Identities with ‘I am Jazz.'” According to the website, the purpose of the lesson is for students as young as four to “be able to define the words ‘transgender’ and ‘nonbinary’ and give examples of ways to support people of all gender identities.”
The “I am Jazz” lesson plan states that students can “support people of all gender identities” including “believing people when they tell us who they are,” and using the “correct words (including names and pronouns) and reminding others to do the same.”
The teacher is instructed to pose a series of questions to the students about how to “know if someone is a boy or a girl.” One of the questions states “How do doctors and parents guess if we’re a boy or girl?” The teacher is then prompted to respond to student answers by stating that “doctors use our bodies to guess what our gender is” but scientists are “finding out that only having two choices, boy or girl, doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”
Teaching for Change, which sponsors the D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice, receives funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and New Venture Fund (an Arabella Advisors project). Read more about how philanthropic foundations are funding woke policies in K-12 education in the Cracked Foundations report.
Whittier Elementary School
The preK-5 STEM school’s Black Lives Matter at School page (last updated in 2021) includes the BLM 13 Principles, spirit week dress such as wearing clothes that “honor a Black person slain by police,” and teaching students about the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School
Illinois School Counselor Association
In 2021, the Illinois School Counselor Association offered a webinar for its members (and paying non-members) titled “Ready, Set, Advocate! Launching a Successful National School Counseling Week Campaign and Black Lives Matter Week of Action!” The webinar provided members with “ideas to prepare for and launch a successful campaign.” Participants in the full session were given 1 hour of professional development credit.
Howard County Public School System
On January 21, 2021, the Board of Education of Howard County approved its resolution “recognizing Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action” and the district’s participation in the event. The board stated that the school system was “not using the external curriculum put out by the BLM organization,” adding that school staff had “created lessons that can be used in Middle School or High School.”
The day two lesson plan for middle school, titled “Diversity and Globalism,” states that the “concept of privilege is difficult to understand and particularly difficult for those who have privilege to acknowledge.” It continues by suggesting that the teacher “do personal research and reflection” so that the teacher has “identified the impact of privilege” on their life.
As part of the lesson, students are directed to complete the “Privilege or Oppressed? Worksheet” by “identifying the places where they enjoy privilege and places where their status causes them to lack privilege.” The plan directs the teacher by pointing out that “in order to understand globalism, students must comprehend privilege and understand that there are structural inequities.” Continuing: “point out that people who benefit from privilege are unaware of the existence of the benefits they receive through their status.”
As part of the day three lesson titled “Queer Affirming, Transgender Affirming, and Collective Value,” the document states that if “Black Lives Matter is based in the idea that all lives matter, but because of systemic racism and attack, it is imperative to say that Black Lives Matter, then it is important to identify that within that movement that queer and transgender lives matter.”
The staff created lesson plan adds that “teachers should be prepared that this is not a place for controversy about sexual orientation,” and that teachers “should not allow for space where sexuality is debated.”
The day four lesson plan focusing on “Intergenerational, Black Families, and Black Villages” promotes “disrupting the Western prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and villages.”
Montgomery County Public Schools
The New Jersey Magnet school states on its website that the “K-2 Gifted & Talented Magnet School” will be participating in Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action from February 6 – February 10, 2023.
Ithaca City School District
Below are “highlights” from the Black Lives Matter at School week in Ithaca’s elementary schools. Notice at Caroline Elementary School, “each grade level (K-5) investigates a different facet of BLM @ School including lessons on identity, culture, Black joy, racism and what it means to be an activist.”
Rochester City School District
The upstate New York school district, through its Restorative Practices site, offers its staff Black Lives Matter at School Week resources.
The district’s “Black Lives Matter at School: A Day of Understanding and Affirmation Resource Toolkit” document includes lesson plans and activities for students, circle scripts for classroom dialogues, as well as curriculum and instruction resources for continuing the material throughout the year.
The toolkit links (inaccessible) to Circle Forward, which the document states that the book “provides circles on identifying, privilege and oppression.”
Other linked resources include a list of articles and websites such as “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies” and “Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege” by Peggy McIntosh.
Durham Public Schools
The district Board of Education signed its “Resolution Recognizing Black Lives Matter at School Month of Action” which stated that it is “intended to encourage ongoing critical reflection and courageous conversations concerning systemic racism, racial injustices, and racial and ethnic bias; and to affirm the right of Black students to be treated with respect and dignity within schools and communities because when black people are liberated, we are all liberated.”
The district’s website includes not only the 13 Guiding Principles, but also Black Lives Matter at School “National Demands” which include ending “zero tolerance” discipline policies and replacing them with Restorative Justice, hiring more black teachers, mandating Black History and ethnic studies curriculum, and funding counselors instead of school resource officers and local police officers.
A “Black Lives Matter at School Classroom Resources and Instructional Strategies” document is also provided for district teaching staff.
Wake County NCAE
The Wake County North Carolina Association of Educators website features selected resources for teachers. The teachers union also features on its “Systemic Racism 101” page additional resources such as “What is White Privilege, Really?” and a document titled “White Supremacy Culture.” The latter document lists “characteristics of white supremacy culture” such as “perfectionism,” “worship of the written word,” “individualism,” “objectivity,” and the “right to comfort.”
The Wake County NCAE states on its “BLM Student-Teacher Alliance” webpage that “Educators can influence how students talk about race by using more appropriate language to describe groups of people and current policies,” schools must “address how students are ‘policed’ by SROs and staff to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline,” and teachers must “teach an un-whitewashed account of history and include more diversity in literature and the arts.”
Philadelphia School District
The Philadelphia School District released its “BLM Week of Action in Schools FAQs for Parents” in 2021. The document states that the 13 guiding principles, developed by the Black Lives Matter Global Network, are “now the framework for Black Lives Matter at School.”
The FAQ also comments that Black Lives Matter Week of Action at School is about “studying issues of privilege with students, which will help them understand their own identities and how that shapes our society.” It continues: “Relying on colorblind rhetoric around kindness and tolerance only perpetuates the issues at hand and does nothing to challenge structural racism and white supremacy.”
Additionally, the document states that white supremacy is “upheld in economic, legal, and educational systems and disadvantages people of color” and that “fighting against white supremacy is essential for creating a fair society.”
“Black Lives Matter in #PHLed,” a lesson resources document produced by a collection of local educators, is utilized in Philadelphia Public Schools and many others across the country. Resources include “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh, lessons promoting Black Lives Matter’s 13 Guiding Principles, as well as math and science resources for teaching about Black Lives Matter.
Guilford School District
The Guilford School District participates in the Black Lives Matter at Schools Week of Action. A district statement explains that it affirms that the “movement is about Black lives: we celebrate the acts of resistance, creativity, and joy that uplift them while we also confront and mourn the injustices and atrocities that are continually perpetuated against Black communities.”
Henrico County Public Schools
Northshore School District
Northshore School District includes the Black Lives Matter at Schools Week of Action as part of its Black History Month events. The district provides its teachers with a document listing resources for teachers to use.
Hollywood Hill Elementary School lists on its calendar that it will be participating in the week of action from January 31 through February 3.
According to the “Racial & Educational Justice: Training and Resources” page, the district offers “Resources for White Allyship.” The linked document includes the video “Systemic Racism Explained” for students grade 3-5, “What is White privilege, really?” for grades 6-8, and “Check Your Privilege (@ckyourprivilege)” Instagram account which “aims to educate followers on privilege and how to be an anti-racist ally.”
Shoreline Public Schools
The Shoreline Public Schools preview of Black Lives Matter at School Week for 2023 states that it will offer “important insights into critical issues that face our society and the lives in the Black community.” Those critical issues listed include helping students “understand inequities based on race” and “promote the belief that we all have a responsibility to work for equity as a core ideal.”
The district states that in the five weeks leading up to Black Lives Matter at School Week, the district shares “lesson themes, which are based on the guiding principles for Black Lives Matter at School.” During week three, students will learn about “Transgender Affirming, LGBTQ+ Affirming, and Collective Value.” Lessons include “recognizing trans-antagonistic violence” and “working toward a LGBTQ+-affirming network where heteronormative thinking no longer exists.”
The themes listed for week four include “Intergenerational” which is “a space free from ageism where we can learn from each other.” It also states that “Black Families” create a “space that is family friendly and free from patriarchal practices” and “Black Villages” are the “disruption of Western nuclear family dynamics and a return to the ‘collective village’ that takes care of each other.”
Milwaukee Public Schools
Milwaukee Public Schools will celebrate “Black Lives Matter Week of Action” from February 6, 2023 – February 10, 2023.
Shorewood School District
The Wisconsin school district recognizes and participates in Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. The district site links to resources from the official website for the Week of Action.