Concord Alumni Demanding Anti-Racist Policy and Curriculum

Concord Alumni Demanding Anti-Racist Policy and Curriculum

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Mattison Howard
Mattison Howard signed this petition

***Please include your graduation year with your last name when signing (e.g. LastName 2016).***

We write to you as disappointed and concerned alumni of the Concord School District. With calls for the dismantling of Anti-Black racism resounding throughout the country, we are dismayed by your echoing silence and inaction. Racism exists at all structural levels in our society; as your students, we have witnessed and been harmed by your frequent choices to uphold rather than deconstruct it. We urge you to recognize the role you play in perpetuating systemic racism, and to immediately take action to ameliorate your failings.

Students have repeatedly voiced their concerns regarding racial injustices throughout the district. You have repeatedly chosen to ignore or minimize their voices. Students have voiced that Black students receive harsher discipline than White students for similar actions. Students have voiced that Black students, Indigenous students, and students of color are not represented in the books they are required to read, the teachers that teach them, or the voices that represent their class years. Students have voiced that the administration has ignored  BIPOC students who have courageously shared their grievances regarding racial injustices in the district. Students have voiced that their race dictates their experience of safety in school buildings. Students have voiced their concerns, and you have failed them.

Whether intentionally or not, your silence on issues of acute and systemic racism perpetuates a culture that denies the safety of BIPOC students. With the safety and wellbeing of students in mind, we demand that you take the following actions immediately:

  1. Release a public statement that endorses Black Lives Matter and condemns the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the many other Black individuals who have been murdered at the hands of police.
  2. Institute comprehensive anti-racist curriculum reform. From kindergarten to 12th-grade, we were failed by a curriculum that centered Whiteness, and limited depictions of Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color to victimhood; this depiction of BIPOC folks was largely whitewashed, perpetuating the notion that systemic and individual racism is no longer an issue in the present day. As a result, your curriculum does not empower alumni to acknowledge, critically analyze, and dismantle systemic racism. To begin to rectify this, at all education levels and in all subject areas, your reformed curriculum must require students to read more texts created by BIPOC people, facilitate conversations around race, allyship, and justice, explicitly cover the creation and perpetuation of systemic racism throughout history, and empower students to identify and dismantle personal, and societal patterns of racism.
  3. Remove the School Resource Officers from the district and invest in appropriate mental health professionals. We make these demands in support of those already made by current Concord High School students. Multiple studies show that there is no conclusive evidence to support that SROs create a safer school environment. In fact, research on the matter points to the opposite:  the presence of police in schools leads to an increase in exclusionary disciplinary actions toward students, and disproportionately toward Black students. To truly ensure the health, safety and welfare of all CSD students, we demand the district divest from local law enforcement and invest in properly trained mental health professionals.
  4. Enact restorative justice practices of discipline in school. Restorative justice, as opposed to punitive justice, emphasizes remediation and rehabilitation over punishment. We demand that the discipline process incorporates policies and practices designed to better serve the needs of students grades K-12. These practices must empower students to take responsibility for their behaviors and encourage them to be an active participant in the remediation process. Data from New Hampshire schools on discipline practice demonstrate clear racial disparities where exclusionary discipline methods (e.g. in-school and out-of-school suspensions) disproportionately target Black children. We demand that you collect detailed data on the circumstances of an event where a child is disciplined, including the identities of the child being disciplined and the staff member involved. 
  5. Implement mandatory, prolonged training for administrators and staff focusing on anti-racism and implicit bias. These trainings need to be sustained over the course of multiple school years, with regular opportunities for staff and administrators to reflect and process the content of the training. We implore you to follow the example of other districts in the Northeast and seek the guidance of organizations such as Community Change Inc, Catalyst Project, and V.I.S.I.O.N.S. Inc. This work must be facilitated by a paid, outside organization with a record of effectively working with schools to dismantle systemic racism and Anti-Blackness.
  6. Diversify staff (with an explicit focus on racial diversification). Many of us navigated the Concord School system from K-12 never having been taught by a Black teacher. When students share gender and racial characteristics with their teachers, they tend to have more positive perceptions of their teachers and coursework; engage in course material with more effort; and report higher college aspirations. To best support its increasing racially and ethnically diverse population of students, we demand that the CSD diversify both its staff and administration to ensure adults in the district are representative of the student population. In service of this goal, formal systems need to be put in place to support and nurture BIPOC faculty. 
  7. Track and publish transparent data on racial and ethnic disparities in rates of graduation, disciplinary actions, referrals to law enforcement, and involvement in honors and advanced placement courses. While the New Hampshire Department of Education documents aspects of this information, the data remains unreadable and unpublished on the Concord School District website. By having this data readily available and accessible, the district will be better equipped to confront and address the evident racial disparities and hold itself to higher standards. 
  8. Prioritize candidates for the permanent superintendent position who have demonstrated the capacity to enact anti-racist policies on a district-wide level. Previous instances of racial bias noted in Kathleen Murphy's tenure at the Hampton School District ought to have disqualified her application and leadership. Commitment to social justice and anti-racism must be modeled at every level of leadership within the Concord School District, starting with the superintendent. 

We encourage you to understand that this list of demands is not comprehensive. Rather, it is a series of preliminary steps necessary for the Concord School District as it begins to reckon with, and cease its perpetuation of White Supremacy and systemic racism. We are hopeful that these first steps will set the Concord School District on a path to becoming an institution where students of all identities are provided with necessary and sufficient conditions to actualize their academic aspirations.