Some educators in the School District of Philadelphia wore T-shirts and donned pens to support the kick-off Monday of the Black Lives Matter Week of Action.
The initiative is sponsored by the Caucus of Working Educators Racial Justice Committee, and was planned before the results of the election, said parent organizer Tamara Anderson.
“This is a chance for our students, teachers, parents and community organizations to search for the causes and symptoms and actively work toward sustainable solutions,” Anderson said.
The week aims to take action at eliminating outcomes derived from racism in public education.
Once a teacher in the district, Anderson noted the city’s 26 percent poverty rate and dwindling numbers of African-American teachers, despite 50 percent of students in the district that are Black and 20 percent Hispanic.
“What better way to bolster those numbers or to talk about it?” said Anderson, who daughter attends Hill Freedman World Academy School. “We thought, how can we make this something that really encourages deep conversation?”
During the week, some teachers have prepared lesson plans, but it is not a requirement or an event that is sponsored by the SDP.
“The district encourages teachers to responsibly engage students around pertinent issues to develop critical thinking skills and a respect for the exchange of ideas,” said School District spokesman H. Lee Whack in a statement. “The district regularly encourages schools to look to current event topics for appropriate teaching content that is also aligned with grade appropriate standards.”
Kensington Creative and Performing Arts history teacher Ismael Jimenez took to 900 AM WURD Monday morning to defend the week, saying that its purpose is for racial justice in education.
More than 100 schools are participating, said Jimenez on the radio, adding there has been some flak from outsiders, people who think the group represents racism and terrorism, which is not true.
“There is so much that needs to be done,” Jimenez said on air. “There’s a lot of damage from teachers who hold questionable views about race and racism.”
The BLM curriculum in schools and community events around town are centered around its 13 guiding principles. Schools and administrators planned their own events with daily themes and at night panels and conversations will be held around the city.
U School teacher and organizer Charlie McGeehan said his principal wore a shirt to school Monday to show support.
“I think there’s been a lot of excitement and momentum throughout the week,” McGeehan said. “We’re excited to continue the issue of racial justice beyond this week.”
For a full list of events, visit workingeducators.org.