Monday, November 24, 2014

Seattle Schools Advisory to Principals on Ferguson Outcome

From SPS Communications:

This message was sent to all principals in the district, to aid them in preparing for and advising their students regarding the Ferguson Grand Jury Verdict.

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, involving the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the upcoming verdict have prompted a broad range of emotions across the United States, and here in Seattle. As some are reminded of the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, and others harken back to the tragic death of Emmett Till in 1955, social protests in Ferguson, Missouri, have attracted national and international attention. While the facts of the case are still being sorted out by those in the criminal justice system, these events have the potential to impact classrooms across the district. 

We know and understand our students are personalizing and experiencing a broad range of emotions around this event and as school leaders we want to help them both express their emotions and think ahead to their futures. It is important that you emphasize to your students that you recognize and value their emotions and want to provide a safe place to share and express how they feel. Also, communicate that you want to help support them in making decisions that will not affect their bright futures.

In an effort to help you support your students, we are providing the following information regarding school operations and potential "teachable moments" in our classrooms for potential student/teacher discussions. 

Student Demonstrations and Protests

In order for students to remain safe during student protests and threats of protests, different levels of strategies need to be in place. It is important that staff avoid a combative position with students if at all possible. Demonstrating is every student’s right, however, creating a disturbance is not. Students may also walkout which is defined as “the act of walking out of a meeting, organization or school day” as a sign of protest. Staff members need to provide them with guidance on how to become effectively proactive to effect the change they desire. If students are protesting at public meetings, every effort shall be made by building administrators to provide staff to the meetings to assist in helping mediate the demonstrations so that positive outcomes and learning experiences can be achieved.

Tips For Teaching Controversial Issues 
  • Recognize the general legitimacy of controversy. Controversy is part of society and students must learn to discuss the issues and problems presented. 
  • Establish ordered ways of proceeding; discussions, debates, take a stand, continuum, mediation, etc. Create and agree on effective rules. 
  • Concentrate on evidence and valid information. 
  • Represent the opposing positions accurately and fairly (balance). 
  • Make sure to clarify the issue, so that everyone understands where there is a disagreement and where there is agreement (to avoid simultaneous monologues). 
  • Identify core issues. 
  • Avoid the use of slogans. 
  • Talk about concrete issues before raising the discussion to a level of abstraction. 
  • Allow the students to question your position. 
  • Admit doubts, difficulties, and weaknesses in your own position. 
  • Teach understanding by re-stating the perspective of others. Have participants paraphrase what they hear to gain this skill. 
  • Demonstrate respect for all opinions. 
  • Establish means of closure; examine consequences, consider alternatives.
Tips for School Administrators
The following are some suggestions that school administrators can implement as they identify the threat of student unrest or a walk out:
  • Be sure at the news stories (communications will help with talking points)
  • Help others understand the issue and how to support the students to find a positive outlet for their protest.
  • Involve Safety and Security Department and local law enforcement (precincts) in your plan and strategy so they understand your intent.
  • Provide talking points to teachers and staff regarding the legislation/public decisions.
  • Identify vocal student leaders, and administrators should attempt to reason with these individuals and solicit their cooperation in bringing the matter under control.
  • Identify key teachers who have a positive rapport with many students to assist in facilitating student forums.
  • Consider providing a well-supervised forum (an opportunity to convene) for student leaders to express concerns, and brainstorm options that would appropriately benefit their goals of protest/walkout.
  • Establish an atmosphere of respect for all in the forum.
  • Convene some members of the community and agency members, including law enforcement that are student friendly and experienced, to support their efforts toward developing a plan and activities that would include appropriate methods of protest with the greatest efficacy.
  • When intervention is needed to resolve the incident, Group Leaders should be identified. Administrators should attempt to reason with these individuals and solicit their cooperation in bringing the matter under control.
  • When possible, provide highly visible Safety and Security Department and law enforcement presence on and around campus throughout the day.
  • Provide communication to parents via letter, SchoolMessenger or newsletter, and utilize the media and the school marquee to inform members of surrounding community, parents and other stakeholders of efforts to address this issue.
We are unsure of the timing of the verdict, yet some media outlets are speculating it could be later today. If you are aware of potential student protests or demonstrations, I encourage you to call Safety and Security and your central office contacts for guidance and support while at the same time showing empathy for your students.

This may be difficult for students to deal with and what matters most is they know that you care, you’re helping them to be heard, and you want to keep them safe while safeguarding their futures.

We appreciate the fine work each and every one of you do to work with our students on current and complex issues.


Anonymous said...

Agreements for Courageous Conversations and Active Listening

Stay engaged.

Remain morally, emotionally, intellectually, and socially involved in dialogue.

Stay present.

Guard against the learned tendency to disengage.

Collectively make the commitment to embrace the conversation/dialogue.
Experience discomfort.

Deal openly and honestly with challenges.

Open up and examine your own core racial beliefs, values, perceptions, and behaviors.

Engage in the dialogue authentically: be personally responsible for pushing yourself into real dialogue.

Recognize that discomfort often leads to real growth.

Speak your truth.

Be willing to take risks.

Share honest thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

We are experts in defining our own experiences and personal realities.

Expect and accept non-closure.

Solution may be revealed in the process of dialogue itself: There is no "quick fix."

Dialogue triggers a moral, intellectual, social, and emotional shift that allows for opportunities.

The more one talks, the more one learns; the more one learns, the more appropriate and promising your actions and interventions.

Maintain confidentiality.

Honor privacy by avoiding "who said what."

Uphold discretion.

Listen with the intent to learn.

Listening is a skill.

Be present: attend to the conversation.

Listening with an openness to learning: reciprocity of sharing creates an opportunity to learn from others.

Suspend judgment.

Signed, Courageous Conversationist

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with SPS or Seattle. What students need to learn is:

1. Don't steal.
2. Respect the law.
3. It's stupid to attack an armed police officer.
4. Don't do drugs.

SPS has it's own very serious issues to deal with and none of them are connected to Ferguson.

Come onMan

Anonymous said...

Come onMan

One of those serious SPS issues is blatant discrimination against students of color, ELL, native American, and special education students.

Time toRiot

Anonymous said...

Come OnMan

Grew up in St. Louis where racism is rampant. I believe the 3 witnesses over the white cop who is barely paid as much as a security guard at Walmart and received little to no training on race relations.


David said...

HP - standing and applauding you.

Anonymous said...

This still has nothing to do with SPS, please don't try and make this into a WTO event.

It very well could be true that black persons experience more police brutality, but based on the information and video evidence the kid was acting stupid on drugs and apparently showing off by trying to grab the gun away from the cop after robbing a store.

Are people suggesting a white teenager pulling the same stupid moves would not have been shot?

Again how is this any concern of SPS. You don't think any white people are shot and killed by cops?

What about this ‘Justice for Dillon Taylor’ sought for white Utah man fatally shot by black officer?

Why is one death more deserving of a civil protest more than another.

Come onMan

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

No indictment!

Nothing to see here move along.

Come onMan

Melissa Westbrook said...

You may comment but no swearing or attacking.

I am not surprised at this outcome. I will say that they repeatedly said the officer did NOT know about the alleged theft at the convenience store. So now we understand the officer DID know this.

And we have yet another black child killed yesterday by police in Ohio. He did a stupid thing by not raising his hands when ordered by the police but then again, he was 12 years old. The caller who called 911 said the gun looked fake.

If only the officers had asked and/or tased this child.

Anonymous said...

Until someone walks in a police officers shoes you have no right to criticize their actions.

Do you really think the cop wanted to kill the man?

Teach children to respect the law and not to use drugs and don't steal.

Please watch the video of the man strong arm robbery and see why he was a threat to others.

There are many injustices to get angry over, THIS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE.

Come onMan

cmj said...

Someone complained that this wasn't relevant to SPS or education. It is.

There are many, many SPS students who care about what's going in Ferguson. They also care about what's happening in Seattle. The Seattle Police Department has a history of racism and police brutality, hence the DoJ investigation in 2011. SPS is/was being investigated by the DoE for possibly disciplining black students more harshly than white students for the same offences.

Garfield students organized a walkout last month to protest police brutality in Seattle and referenced Ferguson in their statement. No matter what actually happened between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, the events in Ferguson are an excellent case study in race, justice, and the media in America.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree, what happened in furguson was not a crime or discrimination. There was a crime, but it was Michael Brown what committed them.

Strong armed robbery
Assaulting a police officer

The grand jury has spoken. Hopefully we don't start hearing from conspiracy theorist.

Come onMan

Melissa Westbrook said...

Come on Man, you do know how ridiculous that statement is to not judge? We judge everyone on their job performance and yes, even cops.

I ALWAYS say that cops have the toughest job (everyone loves firefighters but not cops). I worked as a volunteer investigator for the Public Defenders office and interviewed cops. I get it.

But it's confusing as to why this had to escalate when the officer had the guy in sight and other cops on the way. I listened to the prosecutor (admittedly only for 15 minutes) and it didn't seem like the cop had to fire.

As I said, we were told, repeatedly, that the officer did NOT know Mr. Brown had likely just committed a crime. Now that we know the officer DID know, the shooting makes a little more sense except why not wait for back up?

Now it's going to be another day of sadness and distrust for our country. That's sad.

cmj said...

The grand jury didn't find probable cause to try Wilson. Some people have argued that the DA deliberately took a strategy that would discourage an indictment. I don't know if that's true or not. It's also difficult to convict law enforcement officers of murder. A DA is not going to prosecute a case if they don't think they have a pretty good chance at winning -- it's a waste of resources. That's why rape cases rarely go to trial -- they're often hard to prove because it ends up being a "he said, she said" thing.

The Michael Brown case highlighted a multitude of issues in Ferguson, regardless of what Wilson or Brown actually did. For example:

-Police intimidation of the media, including one officer so threatened by a camera that he threatened to shoot the reporter.

-Police militarization. There was a quote from an Iraq vet that I saw a few months ago, which basically said that the police in Ferguson were puffed-up wannabes angling with a fight, but I wasn't able to find it again. Many Iraq/Afghanistan vets have taken to the Internet and pointed out that they had/needed less gear to patrol places like Faluja.

-Racial profiling by the Ferguson police even prior to Michael Brown's death.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing a platform for racist hate speech.

John Brown

Unknown said...

I hope the kids do talk about this, and I hope their teachers do, too. If we can't learn anything from it, then Michael Brown's death will be in vain.

I also hope the federal Department of Justice investigates and files criminal charges against the police department for violation of Michael Brown's civil rights.

cmj said...

@"John Brown"

Are you sure that's the pseudonym that best captures your intentions?

The historical John Brown would indeed have been frustrated that Melissa is only encouraging people to talk about race and justice. He would have been urging an armed insurrection to overthrow the government of Ferguson. That would be his solution.

Racism, police brutality, and injustice are not specific to Ferguson. These are national issues. I hope Seattle students are talking about this in school.

Anonymous said...

John Brown tried to start a slave revolt. The citizens of Ferguson are not enslaved. The whole scene is a result of America's horrific use of slavery to create wealth.I don't think John Brown would advocate an overthrow of any government, he'd be a political activist, a course of action he tried before he started using guns and swords. Kansas is where the bloodshed started as it was soon to enter the US as either slave or free.When he attacked Harper's ferry, slavery was looking like a permanent institution, moving headlong into the 20th century.Lincoln was not on the scene and things were truly gloomy for abolitionists.
It is disturbing that the legacy of those unbelievable horrors are still with us and there's people on this blog making nasty and undeleted comments.

Nat Turner

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, too bad we can't have a discussion about SOLUTIONS but clearly not.