To often in public education, the voices of youth are excluded and the response to racism is little to no action. No longer.
N-YC united anti-racist youth across Washington into one coalition that demands a seat at the table. As Shirley Chrisholm once said, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,". We are youth with representation at dozens of schools across several districts - with loads of folding chairs. It's time not just for the youth to be at the table but for anti-racism to at the top of the agenda.
Creating authentic partnerships to promote healing-centered, culturally-responsive practices in order to create positive school climates to eliminate racial and systemic trauma, white supremacy, and anti-blackness; to build a transformative educational system that inspires belief in the brilliance of all scholars.
Mandate Ethnic Studies, Pre-K to 12th, and Fully-Staff Ethnic Studies Departments in Every District
Mandate Thorough and Frequent Staff Racial Equity Trainings
Increase Voice of Youth, Especially BIPOC Youth, in Decision-making at All Levels of Public Education
Hire and Retain More BIPOC Educators
Incorporate Restorative Justice Practices in Police-Free Schools Instead of Problematic, Outdated Discipline Practices
Support Black Lives Matter at School Actions, including the new “Year of Purpose”
Increase Access to Opportunities and Mental Health Services
Abolish the Highly Capable Cohort Program
Mandate Climate Change Education, Emphasizing Environmental Racism, and Dramatically Decrease the Carbon Footprint of Public Education
Reduce Gun Violence Targeting Black and Brown Communities
1. Mandate Ethnic Studies, Pre-K to 12th, and Fully-Staff Ethnic Studies Departments in Every District
The default in all subjects and grade levels has been whitewashed, male-centric curricula, making Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) feel unwelcome in our schools and protecting systems of oppression. Instead, we must:
Mandate the implementation of Ethnic Studies in every single course, starting in preschool, as ethnic studies is not an elective; it is people’s lives, bodies, and experiences that deserve to shine in every subject. Until it is implemented in all subjects, make it a graduation requirement for each educational level (elementary, middle and high school);
Fully support the work of students and staff members who work tirelessly to present their cultures in multicultural community events. Schools must respect the students putting on these events and increase their promotion;
Get feedback from youth, especially BIPOC youth, on transforming current curricula into ethnic studies;
Prioritize ethnic studies over advanced learning, which disproportionately serves wealthy, white students;
Contract with ethnic studies experts like the XITO Institute and Washington Ethnic Studies Now; and
Include in ethnic studies courses critical content including life skills, know your rights, financial literacy, and sex education that is inclusive of sexual and gender diversity. (See Demand #7 for more details.)
2. Mandate Thorough and Frequent Staff Racial Equity Trainings
In part because of the overwhelmingly white teaching force, too many educators are ill-equipped to teach ethnic studies, work with BIPOC colleagues, support a healthy learning environment for BIPOC students, and create positive relationships with BIPOC families. Consequently, Washington districts must undertake the following measures:
Include a rigorous anti-racist screening as part of the hiring process;
Create a district and state racial equity policy and display it in every school;
Create and/or improve Racial Equity Teams in every school throughout the district and state with accountability measures, including the following:
Mandate staff participation in trainings led by the Racial Equity Teams;
Include disenfranchised voices (students of color/BIPOC) and be accessible to the community;
Meet regularly, including professional development days, and make notes available for transparency and accountability; and
Explore solutions tailored to each school – conduct quarterly surveys so that Racial Equity Teams can create meaningful professional development that fits the distinct needs of each school.
Train teachers and staff at all levels in anti-racist concepts and strategies, which must be co-led by BIPOC youth and include:
Facilitating productive conversations about race, sensitivity around language, culturally sustaining teaching, cultural appropriation, stereotyping, racial harassment, restorative justice, microaggressions & macroaggressions, implicit bias, intersectionality, tokenism, colorism;
Systems of power, privilege, and oppression:
Accommodations for all religions, languages, holidays – not just Christian ones – such as prayer accommodations for Muslim students, no testing during Ramadan, and much more;
Gender identity/expression (and how it relates specifically to BIPOC youth);
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES);
Intergenerational trauma and Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome;
Encouragement & empowering Black and Brown students;
Mental health check-ups & how to address mental health needs; and
Culture shock, with respect to students’ immigration status.
Increase accountability for staff on issues including but not limited to race and racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression because these issues are intersectional and accountability for one is vital for all;
Ensure staff do not unfairly penalize students learning English as a second language;
Begin each training with a Land Acknowledgment statement; and
Mandate reflections and evaluations after every training to assess racial equity literacy growth by staff.
3. Increase Voice of Youth, Especially BIPOC Youth, in Decision-making at All Levels of Public Education
Voices of students of Color should be included in decision making, at all levels, without administrators laying all the responsibility (and all the labor) on BIPOC students. To counter this, we demand that districts do the following, with efforts to include and center BIPOC youth and families:
Provide more platforms for meaningful youth input, not last-minute feedback, which feels like box-checking;
Establish student representation on the hiring committees at all levels, including committees, buildings, and district;
Ensure youth representation on superintendent search & interview committee;
Compensate youth labor with money and/or credit;
Elect student representatives to school boards, representatives with genuine influence, not tokens to give the illusion of youth voice;
Institute a streamlined, transparent process of reporting race-related incidents, with clear, appropriate consequences and restorative practices;
Make changes to ensure that teacher tenure doesn’t protect racist behaviors in teachers;
Hire BIPOC to review and revise the student handbook, discipline practices, and district policies;
Collect racial identity data that accurately represents people who have more than one ethnicity in their identity;
Respond to communications with BIPOC youth in an urgent manner;
Create a system for students to give feedback on teachers’ racial literacy; and
The districts must schedule regular meetings with representatives from the NAACP Youth Council. These meetings will include conversations about issues regarding the schools.
Allow youth school board members the right to vote aside from advisory voting.
4. Hire and Retain More BIPOC Educators
The demographics of Washington educators, especially teachers, simply do not reflect the demographics of the students. Consequently, districts must undertake the following measures:
Hire more anti-racist BIPOC staff, especially young men of color and nonbinary educators, and compensate them equitably;
Hire more bilingual staff to better serve our ELL students and families;
Incentivize the teaching career of BIPOC youth by creating internships, scholarships, and programs that encourage and facilitate the exploration of the teaching profession (such as the Seattle’s Teaching Academy);
Increase outreach to and build relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and programs that prioritize training educators of Color; Increase outreach to BIPOC led programs including El Centro De La Raza, UNCF (United NegroCollege Fund), Filipino Community Center, etc.
Support and retain BIPOC educators once they are hired, given that they, like students of color, are disproportionately disciplined.
Create anti-racist climates in districts that are unwelcoming to racist educators and white educators oblivious of racism.
Ensuring that BIPOC teachers have support systems such as mental and emotional resources due to the responsibility and pressure they endure from students, white staff members, and community members. This includes providing counseling and other resources needed for BIPOC educators.
Take accountability measures for when BIPOC teachers are harmed, such as restorative justice practices. Look to demand five for more information.
5. Incorporate Restorative Justice Practices in Police-Free Schools Instead of Problematic, Outdated Discipline Practices
Discipline practices that negatively impact students of Color have plagued public education for decades now, funneling Black and Brown students into the school-to-prison pipeline.
In contrast, restorative justice practices have proven to be more effective in addressing discipline issues. Instead of focusing on discipline, the district needs to connect students in need with support, case managers, and mentors.
Additionally, students who are targets of racism (especially on social media) must be protected by districts. Thus, districts need to:
Remove all police from schools and prohibit staff from calling the police on students; Build intentional relationships with the police when issues such as gun violence and thefts occur to ensure student safety.
Take serious action when white students are harassing BIPOC students. Hold restorative justice circles with the harmed students, while educating the white students through an anti-racist lens or ethnic studies lens on the harm they caused. Focus on students in need with support, mentorship, and case managers instead of disciplining;
Create a process with a concrete timeline for students to submit formal complaints against racist teachers;
Ensure that schools investigate when youth of color file complaints;
Make changes to ensure that teacher tenure doesn’t protect racist behavior in teachers;
Train teachers in Restorative and Transformative Justice practices;
Track data to learn if teachers are disproportionately disciplining students with marginalized identities;
Implement Restorative and Transformative Justice district-wide, rather than school by school;
Involve Racial Equity Teams, a Board of students, and families of involved parties when determining resolutions;
Have BIPOC students appoint an anti-racist staff member to be trained or certified on Restorative and Transformative Justice. (If there isn’t a dependable staff member, hire one.);
Encourage students to bring a trusted person to the Restorative and Transformative Justice circle; and
Provide regular check-ins as needed by the person(s) harmed when investigating a case in the district.
Hire qualified (through their educational background) restorative justice circle keepers to provide support to the community members when facing an issue. Circle keepers must go through anti-racist and equity training before they interact with the community.
6. Support Black Lives Matter at School Actions, including the new “Year of Purpose”
The National Education Association and Washington Education Association have both passed resolutions of support for Black Lives Matter at School actions; it’s past time district across Washington follow suit in supporting this movement’s demands:
End zero tolerance policies
Mandate Black history and ethnic studies
Hire more Black teachers
Fund counselors not cops
When districts don’t support the national Black Lives Matter at School week of action, they are sending the message that Black lives don’t matter. Districts must actively pass policies and resolutions early in the year so that educators have months to prepare for Black Lives Matter actions.
In addition to the week of action in February, educators throughout Washington must participate in “The Year of Purpose” actions, most of which are centered around the 13 Principles of Black Lives Matter:
First Day of School: Black to School
October 14: Justice for George Day
November 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance
December 3: International Peoples with Disability Day
January: Queer Organizing Behind the Scene
February 18: Unapologetically Black Day
March 6: Student Activist Day
April: Revolutionary Black Arts
May 3: Black Radical Educator Day
June 5: #SayHerName Day
Juneteenth: Education for Liberation Day
Last Day of School: A Day for Self Reflection
All of these actions are described in detail at blacklivesmatteratschool.com.
7. Increase Access to Opportunities and Mental Health Services
Many youth of privilege, disproportionately white, have access to connections that lead to opportunities. Not all students have these connections so, to be equitable, we must prioritize bringing such opportunities to BIPOC youth. Consequently, districts in Washington must undertake the following measures:
Hire BIPOC counselors and therapists, and increase student access to them;
Provide consistent, continuous, and comprehensive training for all therapists and counselors on Black Mental Health;
Provide social, emotional, and mental health studies for all students K-12, taught in a culturally responsive way;
Provide more information on opportunities available, like internships and summer programs, and ensure that students have access to receive opportunity information in a timely manner;
Provide opportunities besides college, such as trade, internships, etc.
Ensure all schools are providing these opportunities, not just some schools;
Provide accessible financial nights (on topics like filling out FAFSA, filing taxes, budgeting, stocks, cover letter, resume, interview etiquette, etc.) for students and community members held throughout the year provided in multiple languages, at multiple times/days
Prioritize BIPOC organization/businesses when doing community outreach for internships and programs
Make college and career opportunities more accessible to BIPOC students via the main page on district websites, as well as paper resources;
Make College Possible consistent in all high schools;
Provide more support to BIPOC youth/low-income youth for college access earlier in their education;
Assign college and career counselors in a more equitable way, with more funding and FTE going to schools where fewer students currently go on to college;
Create/reinstate/support programs, like teaching academies, that encourage BIPOC students to become educators, especially educators of ethnic studies;
Earmark district funding for BIPOC scholars, creating a pipeline for students of color into higher education (which is what Seattle Young People’s Project and UW’s DREAM project have tried to do to fill the gaps created by Seattle Public Schools);
Reinstate and increase family support workers in all schools; and
Much like the Family Life and Sexual Health program, have a designated week in elementary and middle schools for students to gain exposure to BIPOC people in different professions as well as promote college readiness.
Incorporate emotional literacy into the curriculum using CASEL (Collaborative for Academic Social, and Emotional Learning).
Provide multilingual educational information, mental health resources, and conversation spaces to talk about the impact of COVID and the pandemic on the community.
Immediate conversations and open spaces for students and educators to share their feelings after threats or instances where the community may be harmed.
8. Abolish the Highly Capable Cohort Program
Washington’s Highly Capable Cohort Program (HCC) is fundamentally flawed and inherently racist. It segregates students based on the label of “gifted,” and data shows that Black, Indigenous, and Latino/a/e/x students are underrepresented, as well as disabled students, students experiencing poverty, migrant students, and students who are transitional bilingual. Testing is biased to whiteness in the methods used, and parents with privilege can appeal for their students using paid private testing, a system that highlights inequities in the testing and identification system. Additionally, HCC curriculum is not anti-racist or culturally responsive.
In order to provide education that benefits all students and centers BIPOC students, we demand that HCC be abolished and we instead recommend rebuilding an educational environment in which students are able to participate in different learning opportunities and enrichment classes of interest without any barriers, like the Schoolwide Enrichment Model.
In addition, districts must take action to decolonize and make anti-racist segregated advanced high school courses, such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
In regards to the program adding recommendations, this still fails to recognize the brilliance of students.
9. Mandate Climate Change Education, Emphasizing Environmental Racism, and Dramatically Decrease the Carbon Footprint of Public Education
Climate change is as real as ever. Educating young people and helping them understand the issues climate change comes with encourages us to take action and adapt to environment-friendly norms, especially since this can affect BIPOC and low-income students even more drastically. We demand districts to
Teach environmental literacy and environmental racism. Provide students a better understanding of global warming and commit them to environmental education. Have students use data and evidence to take action against climate change;
Make this climate change education engaging. Host competitions all over the district. Climate change may not be the most interesting subject to learn about, but it must be done for a better future for the generations that follow. Have students garden and see who can have the cleanest school in the whole district. Let’s reward students for the effort they put into this. Create projects on reduce, reuse, and recycling;
Be energy-efficient and less wasteful and commit to being 100 percent clean energy. Use LED lights. Have cafeterias consume less meat and dairy products, which is not only helping the environment but can also be healthier. Reduce paper use by relying on digital platforms. Encourage staff and students to walk, bike, bus, or carpool, if possible.
10. Reduce Gun Violence Targeting Black and Brown Communities
According to the John Hopkins Center for Gun Violence, gun violence alone reduces the life expectancy of Black Americans by four years. And yet, the U.S. largely ignores the external, systemic factors driving inequality and violence in Black neighborhoods.
Thus, we demand that the city and district will address racial inequities in Southeast Seattle as it relates to gun violence against Black and Brown youth. Our goal is to
create a systemic community counter to measure accountability,
target stakeholders and groups who are perpetuating these inequities,
strategize community-based solutions (including but not limited to improved education, affordable housing, economic opportunities, and more),
save lives through preventative measures, and
change gun laws that have placed more Black and Brown males in prison than their white counterparts.
In addition to the above demands, we also demand the following from Seattle Public Schools (SPS):
1. Renovate Rainier Beach High School in an Occupied Renovation to be Completed Before 2025
Rainier Beach was built in 1959. While it has had minor upgrades – a performing arts center in 1998 and a library in 2001 – it has never benefited from a major renovation. Students of Rainier Beach, a school with one of the highest free and reduced meal rates in the district and with a student body nearly entirely of Color, have been protesting poor learning conditions for years. We demand that this renovation:
Create a safer, more equitable environment
Include students, especially seeking voices of students of color, on the design team.
Works to better support students of color
Make sure the new building does not contribute to the gentrification of RBHS and the Southend, instead centering the voices of BIPOC youth that already attend the school.
2. Include The NAACP Youth Council in the Hiring Process of the Superintendent
Youth are a necessary part of the hiring process, but are most often excluded. Due to the important role the superintendent has in decision making for so many students, The NAACP Youth Council must play a significant role in being part of the hiring process.
To connect with the NAACP Youth Council, contact N-YC Youth Coordinator Jon Greenberg: firstname.lastname@example.org