Petition for Anti-Racist Education Reform in Prior Lake Savage Area Schools
Petition for Anti-Racist Education Reform in Prior Lake Savage Area Schools
An existing petitions created by several students in different MN school districts where the model for this post. Those can be found here - https://www.change.org/p/dr-dennis-peterson-diversify-minnetonka-public-school-s-curriculum?signed=true & https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/1cZo1kjy6C_0fgmLi9OddmsewRISRiF-VsZMMb7ErX8Y/mobilebasic?urp=gmail_link&usp=gmail
The goal of this petition is to inspire us all to a higher expectation and standard. If you don't agree, please just don't sign...but comments of hate will not be permitted and will be reported promptly.
As students, former students, parents, teachers and community members of Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools (PLSAS), we demand that PLSAS immediately implement anti-racist education reform into all K-12 schools and create an anti-racist and inclusive school environment for all.
We urge you all to consider the essential role education plays in the context of current events and take action. It is not only essential that Black and all marginalized students feel heard and supported, but also that White students learn how to be anti-racist, inclusive to the LGBTQI+ community and allies to their peers. We feel that the education provided regarding systemic racism and its large role in both American history and our current society was not nearly sufficient. Terms such as redlining and systemic racism should be well understood by all PLSAS students and staff, not just the students who may have experienced them.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” It is essential to educate students about racial issues, anti-racism, and the history of the various ethnic groups in the United States of America. An accurate and complete education on these topics would allow students to have open discussions and think both intensively and critically. PLSAS students must have the tools to better understand the injustices against people who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) and how to prevent them from reoccurring. Just as the educational standards at PLSAS schools are expected to be high, so should the treatment of all people including swift and clear accountability if students or staff step out of line.
We demand that PLSAS:
- Develop a new personal mobile device usage policy that restricts all student's use of personal cellular or other technology devices while on campus during the normal school day. Cyberbullying has become a significant issue and providing unrestricted daily use inside district school buildings further enables students to harass others. Devices could still be brought for parental communications, however should be restricted in terms of usage that aligns with parental communication.
- If not already in place, all technology systems, wifi or other access points (including devices) should be secured appropriately according to best practices including the usage of audit logs that captures data about possible cyberbullying and misuse of technology. It's district policy that students agree to a technology use agreement however, it has come to our attention that the district likely is not using proper best practices to prevent issues stemming from technology use on both personal and district-owned devices.
- Release a plan to hire and retain more minority educators, administrators, staff, mental health counselors, and social workers. (According to the Minnesota Report Card, over around 8% of PLSAS students are people of color, yet a much lower percentage of the staff at the school who engage students come from those same minorities)
- Outline a clear set of expectations including zero-tolerance or other policies for each student, teacher, staff member, and parent who may interact with students at the school. These expectations should also clearly outline what specific actions will occur as a result of racist acts including but not limited to dismissal, expulsion, or legal action when necessary. This policy should be as clear as possible and avoid language that gives parties too much flexibility and liberties at their discretion without accountability.
- Extending similar expectations and clear guidelines/actions for people who persecute, bully and harass individuals who identify specific non-conforming genders or sexual identities.
- Require anti-racism and inclusion training for all staff and administration and any outside parties working in the school with students to specifically combat racism and equality. Not just on a "one-time" basis because of a specific incident (video) but as an ongoing practice integrated into the district culture. This includes teaching them to check their own implicit biases when disciplining and interacting with students. (According to the U.S. Department of Education, Black and Hispanic students are more harshly disciplined than white students.) Require training on how to effectively deal with bullying, when to intervene and how to address situations requiring a longer-term strategy.
- Equal discipline for all students. Minority students should not face harsher or more frequent punishment compared to their white peers. Statewide reports show that even though minority students comprise typically 25% or less of the student body, upwards of 55%+ receive documented disciplinary action.
- Provide clear information to students and the community about the role of any support programs being offered including but not limited to remediation and probationary plans that will be put in place for offenders. These plans will be executed when students overstep boundaries and treat a student of color, LGBTQIA+ identity or any other protected class outside of the established guidelines.
- Work and communicate with students and the community on finding alternatives to the programs offered.
- Train all staff to address any microaggressions from both students and other staff. Additionally, take BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students’ complaints regarding racist incidences seriously. Take immediate action to ensure a safe environment for minority students and openly address incidents of racism. Be aware that there are perceptions from former students, current students and parents where it is felt that the current administration has not adequately responded to or provided clear discipline or guidelines for actions of racism or abuse in the past.
- Established guidelines on how and when parents need to be involved in initial, ongoing and remediation-based communication and planning. In mental health circles, these types of plans are designed for personal safety...and these remediation plans should be seen as the same - protecting the victim from their offenders to optimize feelings of safety and security.
- Update all school websites to include anti-racism statements, zero-tolerance policies and resources for students and their families.
- Implement an anti-racism curriculum in all PLSAS classrooms and develop the curriculum with input from the community.
- Teri Staloch implied in a press conference (https://youtu.be/IwW9w5y_WNw on 11/11/2021 that PLSAS doesn't have as much flexibility to adjust curriculum to provide the diversity and inclusivity needed due to the State of MN standards - as "Our curriculum is actually the Minnesota Academic Standards. That's what we and every other school district is responsible for teaching students. So, you'll see within Academic Standards...whether it's Social Studies, Communications or some of our Health Standards you'll see that there is places that deal with both interactions with one other, certainly the historical context of racism in our society and those sorts of things. And that begins with our earliest learners, our preschool programs when we teach about respecting each other...and kindness and sharing. That goes through every curriculum level whether we're reading books and stories and the lessons that are in there about how do we interact with people, treat others with respect, how do we love others, how do we care for others. And then we get into some of the history of what happened. Certainly those Social Studies academics support some of the work we're doing."
- The only reference to race-related content in the Minnesota Academic Standards (https://education.mn.gov/MDE/dse/stds/ are the following related to Social Studies - "Is Critical Race Theory part of the standards? Critical Race Theory is not included in any current or proposed Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards. Critical Race Theory is a theory that was developed in the 1970s by legal scholars. It may be taught in some master's or doctoral-level programs. Families that have questions about what is being taught in classrooms should reach out to their teachers and school leaders. If school leaders deflect answering questions about this topic, what are parents and community members supposed to do in order to enact change?
- Earlier in that same press conference, Dr. John Bezek (PLHS Principal) mentioned programs that have been introduced and implemented at Prior Lake High School that are outside of the Minnesota Academic Standard structure. Examples of these programs include the BAR (Building Assets and Reducing Risks) program with 9th graders and monthly meetings to institute how to "be a good person". Later Teri mentioned that the community had previously come to the district toto reset the district plan asking for social and emotional learning. These are not part of the Minnesota Academic Standards. These programs are not part of the Minnesota Academic Standards and therefore, PLSAS has the liberties to adjust their implementation of content should it see fit. With that context, the below items should be considered to ensure that Black and minority students feel that their voices and stories are able to be heard.
- At a minimum this curriculum should:
- Acknowledge and teach the accurate history of Indigenous peoples, segregation, economic inequality, and racial discrimination in America and Minnesota to students at every grade level.
- Ensure BIPOC and anti-racist authors are well represented in English and Literature classes and reading lists at every level.
- Provide increased support and resources for BIPOC students, such as minority-based clubs (for example, creating a Black Student Union). For more ideas on what “support and resources” should look like, center input from BIPOC students and families.
- Work with other nearby school districts to encourage them to implement similar measures.
- Expand programs and curriculum to also include LGBTQIA+ and non-traditional gender inclusion.
We have listed some preliminary resources below for implementing an anti-racist curriculum into schools; however, we ask that you center demands and input from Black students and community members throughout the process. Initial resources:
- Philadelphia’s curriculum for an African-American History class which is a graduation requirement for all students (see the first hyperlink for a detailed lesson plan for the introductory lesson).
Expect teachers to attend anti-racist conferences, such as the 2020 National Anti-Racism Teach-In Conference (a virtual conference scheduled August 10-12, 2020. Founded and facilitated by Jack Hill)
- Say Their Names: A toolkit to help foster productive conversations about race and civil disobedience (Compiled by Chicago Public Schools)
- Teach and Transform (anti-bias curriculum designs and PD, created by Liz Kleinrock)
- This blog post from EdWeek.org (contains resources for discussing racism, policing, and protest in the classroom.)
- This blog post from kickboardforschools.com (contains resources for culturally responsive teaching and leading.)
- Creating a Safe Space, an article by Jennifer Gunn. Notable quote: “Schools must be authentically inclusive spaces that recognize systems perpetuating oppression in order to dismantle them.”
- How Can We Build Anti-racist White Educators?, an article by Charlie McGeehan. Notable quote: “If we are going to confront racism and white supremacy in our lives and work, we are going to have to get uncomfortable and deeply question long-held beliefs.”
- BAR WE: Building Anti-Racist White Educators (provide reading materials, discussions, and other resources that will “support teachers to better explore their own biases and improve their own teaching practices”, created by a group of educators in Philadelphia who identify as white.)
- Crossroads Antiracism Organizing & Training (provide workshops for institutions working to dismantle racism)
We recognize that these are not easy or comfortable changes, but they are necessary. We ask that you make these demands a priority as they stem from disappointment in the curriculum and environment created by PLSAS and they are all measures that should have already been implemented in PLSAS. PLSAS prides itself on the quality of education it provides. We urge you to uphold this claim by implementing anti-racist curriculum reform and by creating a safe learning environment for all students minority or otherwise.