Diversify HCPS Libraries and English Department(s)

Diversify HCPS Libraries and English Department(s)

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Diversify Our Narrative Henderson County started this petition to Henderson County Public School Board and

Dear Henderson County School Board: 
In light of recent events in which there have been multiple instances of police brutality against Black communities, we wanted to bring to your attention the problem of anti-Blackness in America; specifically, how we can fight to be anti-racist and encourage a productive dialogue on race and identity among our student bodies.
One of the core foundations of a student’s mindset is shaped through the educational process. We are sure you can agree that the education system is of absolute importance in the lives of America’s children, and while it has been very successful in many of its endeavors, it has also been drastically underutilized as a tool to combat racism. There are many reasons why we believe high school is the optimal time frame to introduce students to such difficult, but necessary topics.
Firstly, completing high school represents a culmination of a student’s core educational studies— this core should educate students regarding how to be anti-racist in the classroom. K-12 education encapsulates teaching students about the most basic, fundamental components that are seen as integral to their academic pursuits, regardless of whether they choose to continue further educational paths post-graduation. While math, science, history, and English are all considered “integral academic pursuits”, so is learning to be anti-racist. We all live in America, and it is undeniable that this country was built upon the foundations of slavery, followed closely by sharecropping, then segregation, then the War on Drugs and the list goes on and on.
While chattel slavery has been abolished, modern-day slavery in the form of systemic racism is deeply entrenched and has only festered and worsened in the past few years. We live and experience our daily lives in this type of society, and it shapes the way we think about the world at an unconscious level from the very moment we are capable of speaking and interacting with others. As a result, we must strive to understand the perspectives of Black/Brown communities and do everything in our power to educate those who come through our school systems.
Additionally, high school is an optimal time to incorporate anti-racist narratives into the curriculum and/or libraries because it is the last time they will be enrolled in mandatory schooling. Not everyone chooses to attend college after 12th grade and implementing anti-racist texts as a school ensures that the majority of students passing through our school systems will have received some exposure to diversity in the classroom. Numerous colleges around this country offer ethnic studies programs as well as courses on issues of social justice, but the problem is that these course offerings create a self-selected group of individuals. Students studying these topics in college are the ones who specifically already want to do so, and are more likely to already be engaged in anti-racist activism or allyship. As a result, this leads to the development of ignorance among the rest of the student body. As we know, apathy or ignorance can be a very dangerous force to reckon with in regards to the power racial oppression has in America. Learning about these concepts in high school under the proper guidance of well-trained, qualified teachers can help expand exposure to such an important topic.
Due to the reasons stated above, we propose that:
1.  Make an effort to implement anti-racist text into our four high schools. These books will be about the Black experience, due to the anti-Blackness that has existed since the inception of our nation fiction books adopted as part of this curriculum are published post-civil rights movement (~ the 1960s), to ensure that issues of race are taught with a contemporary, modern-day context in mind. 
2. Henderson County Schools will accept monetary and/or book donations Diversify Our Narrative Henderson County and implement them into classrooms and/or school libraries. Henderson County Public Schools will also meet with Diversify Our Narrative Henderson County to discuss budget, funding, and ways to distribute more funding into anti-racist literature.
3. This implementation be enforced not only in all standard in libraries but English classes, and literary art clubs.
4. A voluntary task force composed of teachers be created to issue guidelines that ensure these texts are taught with proper tools to ensure racial sensitivity. This force will be utilized when teaching these texts and text like it. 
We urge that this school board take action by adopting such texts and ideology in line with the above proposal. These books can either be nonfiction or fiction, will be chosen with recommendations from teachers and input from the student body. A (non-comprehensive) recommended reading list we encourage teachers to choose from is linked here (bit.ly/DONBookList), but this list is subject to revision and adaptation. We wholeheartedly understand that as a school board, you do have a specific protocol in place for the selection of new instructional materials in the classroom.
While we respect these procedures the amount of thoughtfulness and dedication this review process demands, we would like to request that this proposal, along with the books listed, be granted an expedited review process in order to enact tangible change both quickly and effectively. All the books on this list have an excellent, proven track record of educating its readers on BIPOC issues in dynamic, transformative, and school-appropriate ways. Schools are such an instrumental tool in this long journey towards dismantling racism in this country. To be silent on these issues is to dismiss the potential of this powerful institution to actively combat racism. It is time that we enact permanent, structural change in our school system to contribute to this cause. We recognize that the District has a strong commitment to student success and educational endeavors, but we believe that it could better accomplish its goals by adopting the practices explained in this proposal. Let us diversify our narrative and utilize our school system to combat oppression in this country and work towards a more equal, just world for all.

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