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The Open Letter for Radical Action on Behalf of BIPOC students and families

June 7, 2020 pm30 7:09 pm

There’s a letter, I’ll post it below, signed by 550 central staff members from the NYC Department of Education. They call for a lot of things. They use the Chancellor’s phrase “Equity and Excellence” – perhaps against him. 

They want culturally responsive curriculum, integration, an end to admissions screens, student and parent voice in decision making, fair grading, and, yes, to bring school safety out of the NYPD and into the DoE.

Here’s the New York Daily News headline:  NYC Education Dept. employees call on schools officials to cut ties with NYPD

They left 90% out. But they did pick the right item to divide folks. We know which side they are on.

Here’s the entire letter:

Chancellor Carranza,

We are a coalition of NYC Department of Education employees who work in Central offices. We are leaders from across offices and divisions, whose daily work consists of supporting the 1.1 million students of New York City and the exceptional educators who serve them. We are those who are tasked with carrying out the Chancellor’s mission of Equity and Excellence—a mission that we fully embrace.

We are proud of all we have accomplished, but the time has come for our actions to align with our words. This is the moment to dissociate ourselves from institutional racism and to affirm that Black Lives Matter. We must sow the seeds of a truly anti-racist Department of Education, in service of all our students and families, but especially of our Black students and families, who have borne the brunt of unjust education policies for centuries. Not just because this is the right thing to do, but because this is our duty.

We write this letter because we have pursued educational equity through the avenues open to us as members of this institution, and we will continue to do so. However, doing the internal work alone has not and will not make these policies a reality. So, we turn to you, Chancellor Carranza, to commit our collective efforts as the DOE takes radical action on behalf of our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students and families. It is not enough anymore for our policy to pursue non-racism. We must be anti-racist and address anti-Black policies and practices head on. As leaders in educational transformation, we are ready to join in solidarity with a Chancellor who proactively implements anti-racist policy. We believe you can be that Chancellor. We are prepared to serve—to shoulder the risk and take on this work with you.

As Central employees, we join and echo the demands of our fellow educators who are in schools and in the field, caring for our children every day.  None of our asks are new; our calls to action are those of the School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG), our fellow educators, our colleagues in City government, and most importantly, our students and their families. We commit to carrying out the anti-racist policies spelled out below, as well as the many other practices necessary to implement meaningful change. In turn, we demand that our City invest the necessary resources to build an anti-racist educational system.

We are in solidarity with advocates and with our students in demanding that our Chancellor and Mayor enact the following:

  1. Place School Safety officers under the training and supervision of the Office of Safety and Youth Development and retrain them as School Peace Officers with a focus on deescalation, mediation, and restorative practices. Increase the number of guidance counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals in schools to meet these goals.
  2. Shift city funding from NYPD to fully fund education, youth, and community programming.
  3. Revise the discipline code, attendance policies, grading policies and student rights to address disproportionality and fully recognize the humanity and agency of our students.
  4. Eliminate admissions screens and tests that are used to sort and separate our students.
  5. Implement the student-developed 5Rs of Real Integration framework adopted by the DOE in 2019, especially alternative admissions methods that promote economic, social & racial diversity.
  6. Invest deeply in culturally relevant teaching aligned to the NYSED Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CRSE) Framework.
  7. Utilize varied outreach efforts to meaningfully engage youth, parents, and caregivers in school decision-making processes, which prioritize families that have not participated in prior activities. We must continually meet families where they are and give them the opportunity for agency and transparency into their children’s education.
  8. Implement a system of accountability and transparency that empowers leaders to identify and interrogate racial disparities and inequitable hiring and staffing practices and include anti-oppressive approaches.
  9. Create more equitable and inclusive workplaces and job opportunities for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and employees with disabilities.

We were inspired when you were first appointed our Chancellor, and we were further encouraged by how you made it clear that you would not back off your equity agenda, even in the face of severe opposition. We were in solidarity with you then, and as a family who expects more from their own, we are calling you to your highest principles now. It is our responsibility, now more than ever to divest our Agency from institutionally racist practices and reimagine an education system that does not privilege some students over others.

We will be beside you when the department, and particularly our Agency’s leadership takes the next steps to advance equity and our collective promise to put all our children first.

In Unity & Service,

[followed by 550 signatures, and then:]

Acknowledgments:

These recommendations would not have been possible without the incredible, and in many cases years-long advocacy, of organizations such as the below. This letter was drafted independently, but we owe huge gratitude to these and many others.

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