Discord at the Start of Black History Month/Black Lives Matter Week

Black Lives Matter week is Feb. 4-8.  The district has information here about activities.  From their webpage (partial):

Educators have been thoughtfully preparing for Black Lives Matter at School week, Feb. 4-8, and the district’s Ethnic Studies workgroup has provided educator-developed lessons. Additionally, hundreds of staff have attended workshops learning and preparing for this week. 

During Black Lives Matter at School Week, students will be given opportunities to learn the richness and conflicts of our histories in a truthful and accurate manner, they will learn about structural and institutionalized racism – and become equipped with the tools to combat it, and they will observe that educators in Seattle Public Schools will do whatever it takes to make sure they achieve their goals and dreams.

Seattle Public Schools looks forward to an educational and impactful Black Lives Matter at School week.
The district's webpage is heavy on rhetoric but less so on detail.

I'm interested to hear what different schools are planning.

The group, Race and Equity Educators, had this at their Facebook page:

Wednesday, Feb. 6th at JSCEE from 4:45 pm - 6:30 pm.
#BlackLivesMatter at School - Seattle School Board Mobilization
This is an event by the NAACP Youth Coalition; rally at 4:45pm in the lobby (to note, the meeting starts at 4:15 pm)

Youth will be at the regular school board meeting asking that their demands be met:
- ending zero tolerance
-mandating black history and ethnic studies
-hiring more black teachers
-funding counselors, not cops

Friday, Feb. 8th
Cleveland High School from 6-8 pm.  Student talent showcase and Speak Out. 
 These creative youth--dancers, poets, filmmakers and more--will define the phrase, "Young, gifted, and Black!" and make the case for how to uproot institutional racism in education!

Black Lives Matter Curriculum Guide for 2019.
A bit of a black eye for Roosevelt High's newspaper which had a disquieting cartoon on the cover of their newspaper for an article, “The Struggles of A Life with Addiction.”  It's unclear who is buying and who is paying in the transaction between a black man in street clothes and a white guy in a suit but it just looks to be in poor taste and yes, racist.

As the principal said in a letter to students and parents, it's the adults who failed.  I would agree.  What is interesting is that it turns out that the artist is a student of color.  Via Facebook, the father of the student said he had not seen the cartoon before it went out but when he did, he talked to his student.  He says his student did raise concerns with the advisors about the illustration but it was deemed okay.  The father said:
On a personal note, please know he is positively sick about how this illustration has hurt people, especially as a member of the Black Student Union, especially as he carries his own emotional stress over dealing with racist microaggressions from his fellow students. By creating this image, he feels like he's let his fellow students of color, his school, and his family down.
Principal Anderson Rodgers put out a lengthy statement that included this:
At this time, I am keenly aware that there are perceptions throughout our city as well as school data that tells us that this is not happening with fidelity across the board at Roosevelt High School. This means that as educational leaders and educators, we must continue our own professional growth and we must be intentional in our racial equity work.

As a school, we have been working hard to improve the culture of Roosevelt and create identify safe spaces for students and staff. For example, the Black Student Union has led community workshops on many racial equity themes including how to address microaggressions at our school. This incident demonstrates that we must continue to make this work our highest priority.
The RHS Black Student Union also put out a statement that included:
We want to address the cover of the Roosevelt News article that was recently published.  This cover was not an intentionally malicious action but a common mistake made at RHS. 

We as students of color within the Roosevelt community feel as if this illustration lacks racial sensitivity and awareness towards the dangers of perpetuating stereotypes.  This instance shows the dire need of Roosevelt to focus on issues of race and equity in the student and staff bodies. 
To help with this, we urge students and staff to pay extreme attention to the "Black Lives Matter at school" curriculum that is going to be taught in the upcoming weeks.  In closing, we as a school need to recognize our implicit biases that stem from a lack of diversity and place of privilege and work together to minimize the negative impacts of the intention and unintentional acts of bigotry that happen at our school. 
Denny teacher Tracy Castro-Gill, who has a blog, recently wrote about issues around principals and Black Lives Matter (and used the illustration in the RHS newspaper in her story).   Ms. Castro-Gill worked on the Ethnic Studies curriculum for SPS and is a highly-regarded teacher.

In her post she complains that the principals' association - PASS - is not working hard enough on issues of racial equity.   She speaks about the efforts to shut Middle College High School down and claims that former senior staffer, Michael Tolley, said some teachers working on racial equity issues were commies.

She also singles out the student who created the RHS newspaper illustration , saying it can't be defended.  (She's right but the blame should fall to adults and not just on the shoulders of one kid.)   Interestingly, she has an essay this student wrote two years ago about racism by students to students of color at RHS.  Tough reading.

She says:
As of today, every single education association affiliated with Seattle Public Schools but one has passed a resolution of support for both ethnic studies and Black Lives Matter at School, including the Seattle Education Association, Washington Education Association, National Education Association, the The Seattle Council PTSA, and the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors. The one organization that’s missing from that list? The Principals’ Association of Seattle Schools (PASS).  This is unsurprising considering some of the reports my colleagues and I have heard from educators about the barriers many principals are putting up in their buildings when it comes to racial justice*.
That asterisk?  *It’s not just white principals.
Educators report building principals restricting access to teaching materials for both ethnic studies and Black Lives Matter at School. Principals are also denying educators time to learn about and plan for Black Lives Matter at School even when their educators are asking for it and after every principal and assistant principal in the district participated in a professional development session where they were handed tools and materials to take back to their buildings with the expectation of preparing for the upcoming week of action and learning.  

Educators reported last year that many principals refused to allow educators to wear Black Lives Matter at School t-shirts, let alone teach about it, citing the racist phrase, “All lives matter.” It’s been reported to me that another principal invited police officers into their school during the week to show students how “nice” police officers are. I can’t even begin to imagine the trauma some students experienced having a uniformed officer on campus after one of the worst years of police brutality in recent memory.

If these have been your experiences with building administrators, please share them in the comments. We can no longer allow them to act in the shadows. Their efforts to uphold White Supremacy must be exposed.


Anonymous said…
Again this year, much of the Black Lives Matter Week curriculum involves LGBTQ issues, including gender identity. Why? That doesn't seem unique to being African American and I don't see the relevance.

Are parents aware of this sexuality training that's going on from pre-kindergarten on up through high school?

As part of the Teacher Resources for "Early Childhood" (Pre-K?) there are these notes:

"Transgender Affirming is the commitment to continue to make space for
our trans siblings by encouraging leadership and recognizing trans-
antagonistic violence, while doing the work required to dismantle cisgender
privilege and uplift Black trans folk.
“Everybody has the right to choose their own gender by listening to their own
heart and mind. Everyone gets to choose if they are a girl or a boy or both or
neither or something else, and no one else gets to choose for them.”

Queer Affirming is working towards a queer-affirming network where
heteronormative thinking no longer exists.
“Everybody has the right to choose who they love and the kind of family they want
by listening to their own heart and mind.”

Northend Mom
Unknown said…

That's the result of the intersectionalism that is the axis of all of these social justice initiatives, which includes BLM, LGBTQ+, immigrants, the poor, Muslims, and socialists.

The BLM in school materials are intersectionalism products, so you're also going to see stuff in there about different family structures, redistribution, feminism, etc.

Unknown said…

I don't know that I'd call this discord. There's a great concordance here that provided a very timely opportunity for Tracy Castro-Gill and Jessie Hagopian to get BLM in Schools Week in the spotlight.

I don't think this was all intentional, but the timing provides quite an opportunity for us all to discuss this.

Anonymous said…
I wish the Ethnic Studies curriculum could be implemented at all schools quickly, and not just first at the schools with more students of color. I believe the mostly white schools are the ones that need this the most. I wish the mostly white principals at these schools and the mostly white teachers at these schools would rally to request this curriculum for their mostly-white students. Though it might be more challenging for the teachers at these schools, without the lived experiences, to implement it well.
SP, I would call Ms. Castro-Gill's words about principals discord.

WhiteStudentsNeedIt, interesting thoughts.
Anonymous said…
Ah yes that's my yearbook page and those are the photos I submitted but I never looked at the book. I did take the time to pick out photos and submit them along with my salutations but I never looked at the book nor did anyone I knew at the time look at the book and inform me about the mistake. They called me coon man, but I don't know why. I would have never done such a thing, oh wait I did perform as Michael Jackson in blackface.

--Coon Man
Anonymous said…
Melissa writes, "She also singles out the student who created the RHS newspaper illustration , saying it can't be defended. (She's right but the blame should fall to adults and not just on the shoulders of one kid.) Interestingly, she has an essay this student wrote two years ago about racism by students to students of color at RHS. Tough reading."

I am curious as to whether Tracy Castro-Gill had permission from the student to post/share his article. If not, she has no right to have it up on her blog. Using student writing for purposes outside of class and for which they did not intend is wrong and shows poor judgement on her part.

Anonymous said…
Why are you doxxing Melissa? She's not the one who published the student's name and the student's essay.

Her children did go through Seattle Public Schools, but are grown. But either way, she's allowed to have an opinion and you're allowed to agree, disagree or ignore it altogether. This blog doesn't have an exclusive membership, but is a public service that she provides and that many of us appreciate. Again, you're welcome to ignore it if you don't like it, but it is uncalled for to target her personally.

Northend Mom
No one who supports BLM would behave in this manner. I know those folks to be people of good faith who will engage in a civil manner.

I do live in Seattle and I had two kids go thru SPS. Anyone who lives in Seattle is entitled to speak out about public education because we all pay taxes. I continue to be active in the district and am on one Board committee.

Take your cruel (and untrue) words and find a rant/rave place where your type is welcome. You are not welcome here.

This is an important discussion to have but we are going to be civil.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, you deleted a series of comments from BLM and another poster. Those comments were rude and uncalled for, but now neither your reply to the deleted comments nor Northend mom's make any sense to people who didn't read the earlier comments.

NP, if someone gets personal and threatens me, I will delete it. They were not on topic. I think most people can discern that someone was uncivil and threatening and I deleted those comments.

Maybe someday I'll do a post of all the truly terrible (and sometimes threatening things said about me and my family). No one would tolerate it and I certainly won't.

Back to the discussion.
Anonymous said…
For those interested in Black Lives Matter, the Sunday NYT has a fantastic section called "Overlooked - Revisiting 168 years of NYT history to provide obituaries for black men and women who never got them." Beautiful photos too. I recommend buying the actual paper and getting a hard copy of the pullout section.

NP, just to note, that series is an on-going one for all types of people (more POC and women who, of course, were overlooked). Wonderful to see they are doing it for Black History Month.
Anonymous said…
Copying from a friend's FB post because she wrote it so well:

When you get vague letters from your child's teacher about Black Lives Matter week and how there will also be lessons on "equity" and "bias", they get letters like this:

Hi Mr. Teacher!

Thank you so much for the heads up about Black Lives Matter week. I checked out the SPS Ethnic Studies but didn’t find specific curriculum. So I assume that this is going to be the schedule that you will be following:

Monday: Restorative Justice, Empathy and Loving Engagement

Tuesday: Diversity and Globalism

Wednesday: Trans-Affirming, Queer Affirming and Collective Value

Thursday: Intergenerational, Black Families and Black Villages

Friday: Black Women and Unapologetically Black

Very few people, ourselves included, would disagree that black lives matter. I am so grateful for the endurance and clarity of the civil rights leaders who fought for equal rights for our black brother and sisters. But when examining their website or following the official BLM movement it seems that this is, primarily, a political movement that falls along political lines with very clear political enemies. While it’s true that racism and bias can still be found in this country, the BLM material often frames itself as fighting against “hate” which caricatures anyone who might disagree with their political goals as racist. In a time when only 17% of black children will have the benefit of their married mother and father loving them in the same home though high school graduation, I think it’s deeply problematic that BLM states “disrupting the nuclear family structure” as one of it’s platforms. I went to https://www.seattlewea.org/…/Black%20Lives%20Matter%20Week…/. Many of the links are simply opinion pieces. Others make claims that can be refuted or at least challenged if we were to examine these questions through the lens of data rather than ideology. Perhaps I’m wrong but, this does not look like the organization to align with if we are seeking honest and open educational conversations.

In addition, I have deep concerns about what it means to be “trans-affirming” in elementary school.

- Breaking rigid gender stereotypes? Great.

- Giving kids off-label drugs as puberty blockers that effect their brain, bone, and muscle development? Highly problematic and controversial.

I have a friend who started cross-sex hormones as an adult and after a few years suffered life-long, devastating physical results. Though she no longer identifies as a man, she had to have a full hysterectomy and lost all her sexual function in addition to numerous other long-term health problems. Another friend underwent a full medical transition but then resolved his dissociative disorder and found that his transgender feeling subsequently resolved. Unfortunately, he still has the body of a women, though he no longer identities as one. So forgive me if I am cautious about what BLM means when they say “trans-affirming.” Adults can do what they please, but we need to be encouraging children to love and embrace their bodies, not become life-long customers of pharmaceuticals and cosmetic surgery.

I would love to have more concrete details about what exactly the class will be discussing and reading this week. Though it sounds like what you have planned is fairly open-ended so perhaps more details are not available at this time. If that is the case, perhaps you can let me know when these lessons will be scheduled so I can sit in during class time?

And finally, I want to thank you for being a great teacher. Our child has really enjoyed his time in your class and I think you have risen through the ranks to now be his all-time favorite. I’m so grateful for how you worked through the bumps in those first few weeks and found a way to help him love his classroom time. The school days that he doesn’t love, are the days when he has a substitute.

Let me know if you have curriculum details or when I can join the class.

Many thanks,


Northend Mom
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