Sign onto The Open Letter to President-Elect Vice President-Elect from Black Lives Matter at School:
Thursday, December 10, 2020

President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris,

To begin, we hope that you will consider these words by the great Black educator, Septima Clark, as you think about what needs to change in our public education system: “I believe unconditionally in the ability of people to respond when they are told the truth. We need to be taught to study rather than believe, to inquire rather than to affirm.”

We, the Steering Committee of Black Lives Matter at School, are guided by Septima Clark through our work in education from preschool through college. We understand Clark’s legacy as a part of our work to ensure Black children, teachers and parents deserve schools as safe places to study and inquire. You have the opportunity to create policies and appoint judges and officials who can ensure school is a space of emotional, intellectual and physical safety that encourages positive development of children who are often most marginalized.

This Call To Action is demanding that in the first 100 hundred days, your office will:

1. End tracking of students. Tracking is the modern-day segregation inherently fuels equity gaps and creates disparate access to resources that are largely stratified along divisions of race and class. Decades of research, as stated by Professor William Mathis and the National Education Policy Center indicate tracking widens the opportunity gap and encourages segregated classrooms. We believe all students deserve high quality, enriched curriculum with experienced educators. To end tracking, we must also end the use of high stakes standardized testing to sort and label Black students as inferior. Standardized testing is a direct result of racist eugenics policies and beliefs designed to prove Black inferiority. Today, they continue to deny Black students access to a high-quality education through graduation and grade promotion requirements and firing teachers and closing schools based on test scores. Though some civil rights leaders mistakenly believe testing is needed to expose the supposed gaps in achievement, we assert that the so-called achievement gap is a racist construct that must be dismantled. The only gap our children face is access to well-funded schools, engaging culturally relevant curriculum, high-qualified Black educators, and policies that center their brilliance, uplifts their culture, and prepare them to assume their rightful place in this world as intelligent Black citizens. Biden promised to end the use of high-stakes standardized testing in a televised event in December of 2019 when asked by one of our steering committee members. We expect him to live up to his promise.

2. Resume the Department of Justice investigation of the murder of student, Tamir Rice and all Black people murdered by law enforcement officers, security guards and others. Tamir Rice, Aiyanna Stanley Jones, Trayvon Martin and countless other Black students have been murdered with little local or federal accountability. In order for Black students to thrive, their lives must be prioritized and valued across the nation. We understand from the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, independent reports and studies from Harvard professors including Gabriel Schwartz and Jaquelyn Jahn that in the United States Black people are killed up to six times more often than white people.

3. Appoint an experienced, Black educator for Secretary of Education who opposes corporate education reforms such as high-stakes testing and school privatization. Our recommendations for the Secretary of Education include scholars and educators Gloria Ladson Billings, Derrick Brooms, Brittany Cunnigham, Leslie Fenwick, Vivian Gadsden, Stacy Davis Gates, Jesse Hagopian, Shaun Harper, Khalilah Harris, Denisha Jones, Noni Thomas Lopez, Bettina Love, Dena Simmons, Becky Pringle, Pedro Noguera, Jose Vilson, Cecily Myart-Cruz, Ivory Toldson, Serena Wilcox and Venus Evans-Winters. We request that the new Secretary have a diverse advisory board including scholars and educators above.

4. Create federal policies to decrease and eliminate law enforcement in schools. This begins with your endorsement and support of Rep. Pressley’s PUSHOUT Act. The Ending Punitive, Unfair, School-Based Harm that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma Act would establish $2.5 billion in new federal grants for schools that commit to a set of measures aimed at overhauling the ways schools handle discipline. Additionally, you must take all necessary steps to reunite the hundreds of children separated from their families at the U.S. border. Family separation is one of the most traumatic events a child can suffer and it is a travesty that so many children experienced this injustice at the hands of our government. Aslyum is a human right that we must extend to all people seeking refugee from torture and persecution.

5. Strengthen public education by allocating federal money for culturally responsive counselors, nurses and mental health professionals at a ratio comparable to schools population. According to reports including, How the Lack of School Mental Health Staff is Harming Children, we know that students are 21% more likely to visit school based health centers than anywhere else. Studies show schools with resources such as mental health providers, nurses improve the health of students and the overall safety of the school. There is more funding police officers than medical professionals in schools. We understand the danger law enforcement responds inappropriately as they ARE NOT trained in best practices as youth development professionals or mental health specialists.

6. Protect the civil rights of students and resume complaints from trans students to the Department of Education which were halted by Devos in 2018. Reinstate pre-Devos measures on protections for trans students. Gender identity should not determine treatment in our schools. The compounded impact of racially biased school discipline and hostile school climates for LGBTQ+ youth calls for an approach to advocacy and youth engagement that addresses the whole lived experiences of LGBTQ+ youth of color. Safety for LGBTQ+ youth of color looks like: ending harsh, zero-tolerance anti-bullying policies; protecting and expanding access to GSA clubs; creating LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum; medically accurate sexual health education, and supportive and nurturing school environments that uplift and celebrate their diverse identities as LGBTQ+ youth

7. Eliminate all student loan debt. As the NAACP Report on Addressing the Black Student Debt Crisis recommends, student debt cancellation offers the only solution to erase the racial disparities in student loan debt. As leading policy experts have argued, cancellation will increase degree completion, boost the economy, and immediately close the racial wealth gap. The most comprehensive plan is the College for All Act of 2019, introduced in Congress, that cancels all student loan debt and covers all tuition and fees at public higher education institutions. This legislation shows debt cancellation must include cancelling the original need for student loans, which includes the rapidly increasing costs of college for which students and families are responsible.

8. Deliver federal aid to state education budgets to ensure there are no layoffs of teachers and staff. Schools require flexible funding to spend during the pandemic in order to prevent layoffs, support the learning of students beyond Title I allocations. This stands as an immediate and urgent redress to the long-term, substantive work that must be done to confront the systemic educational debt of more than $23 billion owed to Black schools and communities. Drawing on research from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, we recognize that between 2005 and 2017, public schools in the U.S. were underfunded by $580 billion in federal dollars alone—money that was specifically targeted to support 30 million of our most vulnerable students

9. Immediately halt and retroactively eradicate all evictions to ensure students, parents, teachers and community members have a safe place to live during a global pandemic where Black and Brown people are amongst those heavily impacted. Pass an emergency stimulus bill that creates a monthly $5,000 payment for people struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. Pass the Bipartisan Emergency COVID Relief Act of 2020. The current COVID-19 bill that is currently being considered does not do enough, but if passed it will help the 12 million Americans scheduled to lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas.

10. Immediately rescind Executive Orders Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping and Establishing the 1776 Commission, and reinstate the need and support for anti-racist trainings and benchmarks within the federal workforce. Additionally, explore the possibility of increased federal support and incentives for Ethnic Studies courses and curriculum across the educational lifespan, following the model of the Save CA Ethnic Studies Coalition. Our demands are foundational to a national commitment to justice for students who are impacted by not only what occurs in school but the social and political environment that impacts learning. We look forward to working with you to ensure this call to action is addressed within the first 100 days of your office: January 20, 2021 - April 30, 2021.

Sincerely,

Black Lives Matter at School National Steering Committee and the undersigned:

1.Tanya Maloney, Assistant Professor, Montclair State University
2.Alana Aichholz, Agoura High School
3. Genevieve Buccieri, Student Council Commissioner of Social and Cultural Awareness, Agoura High School
4. Josh Krawczyk, Graduate Student, Seattle University
5. Kaela Goodwin, Teacher, Argyle Middle School, MCPS, Maryland
6. Chris Swinko, Teacher, Summers-Knoll, Ann Arbor, Michigan
7. Naomi Sharlin, Teacher, NYC Department of Education
8. Sarah Egger-Weiler, 3rd grade Teacher, Seattle Public Schools, Cascadia Elementary
9. Megan Wolfe, Executive Director, Girls on the Run of Snohomish County, Edmonds, WA
10.Claudia Hoffens, Intervention Coordinator, LAUSD, Los Angeles, CA
11.Nicole Rosenberger, Student, Lake Washington Technical Institute Kirkland, WA
12. Ellie Cosby, Associate teacher, Grace Episcopal Day School, Kensington, MD
13.Kayla Dillon, Classroom Teacher, Ypsilanti Community Schools, Ypsilanti, Michigan
15. Anonymous Teacher, New York, NY
16. Abbey Novia, Education specialist, Rutherford, NJ
17. Charlie McGeehan, Teacher, The U School, School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
18. Bethany Monea, PhD Candidate, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, Philadelphia, PA
19. Mara Imms, Teacher, CAIHS, Coatesville, PA
20. Emily Novia, Graduate of U.S. Public Schools, San Francisco, CA
21. Lori Griffin, LRG Legal Consulting, New Jersey
22. Bree Ben-Ami, Rutherford Anti-Racism Initiative, Rutherford, NJ
23. Dailia Plath, Drake University, Education Student, Des Moines, IA
24. Nicole Twardzik, School Counselor, Las Vegas, NV
25. Alex Riviello, NJIT, Rutherford, NJ
26. Elizabeth V. Kennedy, Community Organizer for Education & Opportunity, BLM at Schools Week NY, NY, NY
27. Meghan White, RARI, Rutherford, NJ
28. Mona Swallow, GMC, Adjunct Professor Marietta, GA


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