Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Race and Seattle Public Schools

Two stories caught my attention this week concerning social justice and Seattle Public Schools. 

Earlier in the week I received an email from the Non-profit Anti-Racism Coalition telling us about an opportunity to advocate on behalf of a race and social justice curriculum suspended after a parent complaint.  Powerful Voices' curriculum (which we deliver in SPS middle schools) has a strong race and social justice component.  We talk about gender.  We talk about race.  We talk about identity and privilege.  The very things the suspended curriculum talked about.  We know, from 18 years of doing this work that when students understand institutional, interpersonal and internalized oppression they increase their self-confidence and increase their ability to gain skills they need to have healthy relationships, a successful educational experience and to become strong women who can lead the social change of today and tomorrow.

Then, I read this story in the Seattle Times about a federal investigation into whether SPS discriminated against African-American students by disciplining them more frequently and more harshly.  Unfortunately, this didn't surprise me.  Powerful Voices exists because of the racial and economic disparities faced by the girls we serve.  We purposely provide our services in institutions, like public schools and juvenile detention facilities, that were not historically designed to address girls' needs.  Powerful Voices believes that safety and equity are basic human rights within the school system and it is essential to promote a culture shift within these systems.

Two stark reminders of the need for a Girl Justice movement.

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