On October 19th, 2016 hundreds of Seattle teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, nurses, instructional assistants, librarians, and other educators will be wearing Black Lives Matter shirts to school in an unprecedented action, “Black Lives Matter At School.”That's how the Seattle Equality Educators' FAQ document starts. I have previously only seen the day called "day of solidarity" but now it seems it is officially "Black Lives Matter at School."
There are a couple of confusing things.
- The group that has put forth this day - SEE - has no information available, at all, at their website. Why that is if they are the organizing group, I don't know. Instead, the FAQs are at the website for Garfield teacher and public education advocate, Jesse Hagopian.
- Then there is this statement:
In support of this focus, members are choosing to wear Black Lives Matter t- shirts, stickers or other symbols of their commitment to students in a coordinated effort. SEA is leading this effort and working to promote transformational conversations with staff, families and students on this issue.I'm a little confused because I'm not sure when the conversations with families would happen. I have only heard that some parents will be wearing a BLM t-shirt/sticker/button on that day.
Q: Who has endorsed this Black Lives Matter At School event?
A: This event been endorsed by the Seattle Education Association, Seattle PTSA Council board, The Seattle NAACP, Diane Ravitch (former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education), Dr. Wayne Au (editor at Rethinking Schools and professor at UW Bothell) Carol Burris (Executive Director of the Network for Public Education), and a growing list of academics, organizers and activists from around the country.
Q: Why are school teachers and staff participating?
A: When people know that something is wrong, they often try to change it through social movements. Black Lives Matter is a social movement for racial justice in 21st century United States. Every individual chooses how they show their support of the movement. Some teachers want to be publicly supportive, others would rather be private.
Remember that last sentence because it would appear to support teachers showing support in their own way. There's another FAQ that seems to weaken that stance later on.
Q: Isn’t this a political action and do political actions belong at school?
A: This is a consciousness-raising event. School is part of society, students and staff are part of society, and so what is happening within our society deserves and demands our attention. This is a “teachable moment” for the Seattle Public School community.
In this case, with the choice of using Black Lives Matter to convey the message, it would appear that the event is both a consciousness-raising AND political event. I also find it interesting that the SEA/SEE is very much in the driver's seat of how this "teachable" moment" is carried out.
Q: How can I show my support?
A: Students and families are welcome to participate at school on racial equity activities in these ways:
1) Wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt or sticker on Oct. 19th. Contact your school to find out what is happening there on the 19th.
2) Parents and educators, here is list of age appropriate resources you can use to teach about racial justice: http://socialequalityeducators.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/TeachingRacialJustice.pdf
3) Attend the Black Lives Matter At School rally/forum/show organized by Social Equality Educators on the evening of Oct. 19 at Washington Hall at 6:00 p.m.to 8:00 p.m.
I find it interesting that between the district and the SEA/SEE, they leave it up to parents to learn what is happening at their school. I'll have to ask if this information will be available for parents at every participating school by Wednesday.
Q: Why call attention to Black Lives when all lives matter and when there are other groups treated unjustly in our schools and country?
A: Over 50% of the Seattle Public Schools’ student population are non-white students. The call of All Lives Matter is often used to brush aside the concerns which led to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement over the last two years. In some cases, it reflects the universal consciousness and awareness that many members of the younger generations have come to embrace. However, until the lives of people of color are treated with equal value by the society, the call for all lives to matter rings hollow. By all measures, African-Americans, Native Americans and Latinos, are treated unequally by our society fifty years after the passage of major civil rights laws. This inequality can be found in incidences of police brutality and killings, imprisonment rates, repeated studies of job and housing bias, health care, and access to quality education resulting in the school to prison pipeline. Black students in the Seattle Public Schools are suspended at four times the rate of their white peers. Until we are treated equally, we must all raise our voices or be complicit in the racism.
That red is mine. So first they say that some teachers will be working in more quiet ways ("private") but this sentence seems to indicate that if teachers don't raise their voices that day, well, they are "complicit in the racism."
I can tell you from my years of experience that, for some people, there are many reasons they cannot publicly raise their voices. People have told me that it's great that I can put myself out there but that it is just not for everyone. Many people don't want to be in the fray or it's not in their nature. People have told me that and yet they do work behind the scenes, quietly and drawing no attention to themselves.
So if it is not readily apparent that you are acting against racism in our schools that day, then you are complicit?
There is to be a Twitter chat #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool 5:30pm PST to discuss what the movement is about.
I'm a little surprised that the SCPTSA Board would vote to be part of this day and not be sending out information to units about what parents might do/expect from the day.
Let us know what you hear from your school or PTA.