A group of union teachers in Philadelphia are currently urging their colleagues to plan a week of lessons based on the Black Lives Matter movement.
The lesson idea is being pushed by the Caucus of Working Educators, a faction of one of the local teachers unions.
The Caucus’ intentions include getting teachers to wear BLM shirts and buttons during the week of January 23, all while teaching about racial and social justice issues.
However, many members of the Caucus- including Fentonville School of Arts and Sciences teacher Amy Roat- knows that the concept may not fly with some school administrators.
“I would never encourage someone to be insubordinate,” she said. “But I would also encourage to make an appointment with the principal and talk to them and say, ‘This is why I’m participating in this Black Lives Matter week. And this is the kind of lesson I want to teach and this is why I think it would be good for my class.”
While Roat certainly has a partisan stake in the issue, she feels that it is a teacher’s role to guide students in processing current events and insists the move is not a political one.
“I do think Black Lives Matter is a real thing in the news, just like everything else. And I think it’s definitely not off-limits,” she said. “It [the lesson plan] is to educate children and let them understand what’s going on so they can form opinions and they can be critical thinkers.”
In an interview with a local news station earlier this week, Roat outlined her feelings on the matter and academic plans if she is allowed to carry out the will of the Caucus.
“By part of the Black Lives Matter ideology is an affirmation black folks’ contribution to society, our humanity and the resilience in the face of some really serious oppression over the whole history of our country,” she said. “It’s OK to spotlight one group sometimes. In Social Studies, maybe I’m going to focus on colonial times sometimes and really put a spotlight on those people and what was going on at that time. It’s OK to hone in on an issue and I think when we take that stance that we’re just going to be color blind, we’re not giving everybody their due.”
According to CBS Philly, Philadelphia School District spokesman Lee Whack released a statement on behalf of the city’s school district.
“We support all children and their academic success,” the statement read. “We are fully invested in the lives of all of our students and we have regular forums and avenues throughout the district for students to express themselves and learn.”
It is unknown exactly how many teachers will take part in the politically-charged lesson plan and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is not taking a formal position on the matter.
Similar events have occurred in schools across the country in recent years, with over 2,000 Seattle teachers donning BLM shirts and holding rallies in October of last year.
In 2016, Chicago school districts held similar -albeit more divisive and explosive- events, including an April teacher’s rally where an activist took the stage and said “F– the police, f– CPD, and f– anybody who roll with them.”
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