Dear Dr. Cristen Herring,
In response to the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and to institutionalized anti-Black racism broadly, many school districts and organizations are making statements of solidarity and commitment. Upon seeing the June 5th Auburn City Schools statement, we were thankful for an acknowledgment of this moment.
We are also concerned with the specific content of the message. While most everyone would agree with the belief statements about the value of humanity, in this moment, we need to acknowledge that people are responding not to the disregard of everyone’s humanity, but to the denial of the humanity of Black people — specifically, the ongoing loss of life of Black men and women at the hands of police officers.
The protests and calls for action are centered on Black lives because there is a history of anti-blackness and systemic racism in the United States. When statements are made that focus on “all” people, they are dismissive of the particular experiences of Black people.
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As families with children in the Auburn City School system, we expect the leadership to be honest about institutionalized racism in our country and to name it. We also expect statements of support to include actions the school district will take to affirm Black students and families and to include critical reflection of the ways in which Auburn City Schools maintain policies, practices, and curriculum that perpetuate racial inequity in our communities.
We ask that Auburn City Schools make a statement that:
- Explicitly names racism and acknowledges that communities are protesting police brutality against Black people specifically;
- Articulates how Black students and families matter in and to the Auburn City Schools system;
- Explains how ACS will reach out and listen to Black students and families about what’s happening in this moment and about their experiences with racial discrimination and inequities in Auburn City Schools;
- Demonstrates a commitment to decriminalizing school behavior, creating weapon-free schools, and divesting in school policing, with reinvestment in services and resources that support the holistic development of young people;
- Demonstrates commitment to required, ongoing professional development focused on anti-racist leadership, including examination of school discipline policies and practices; tracking practices that result in underrepresentation of Black students in Academically Gifted and Advanced Placement programming; and diagnostic mechanisms that lead to the overrepresentation of Black students as learning disabled/in need of Special Education;
- Demonstrates commitment to required, ongoing professional development for teachers focused on anti-racist teaching, including the development of culturally sustaining curricula and instruction;
- Demonstrates commitment to an increase in hiring and supporting Black teachers, administrators, counselors, and staff members; and
- Demonstrates commitment to developing classes for students that include Black studies and African American History.
We look forward to hearing more about how Auburn City Schools will respond to ongoing injustice in ways that acknowledge and redress the harms done to Black students and families in Auburn.
Acknowledgment, redress, equity, and justice are the changes we need to work toward together. It is how we will teach all of the students in Auburn that Black lives have inherent and equal worth and that Black students and families have the right to feel and be safe.
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