Last Thursday I attended an event for one of our high schools, New Tech Academy, a high school that uses project-based learning as their primary methodology. The event was an anti-racism art show which was a culmination event for a unit they did on racism. The unit included topics such as the 3/5th compromise, the 13th amendment, and Brown vs the Board of Education. Students had Socratic discussions on these topics with not only each other but community members as well. During this unit, there were issues brought up where students didn’t agree with each other or with the community members, but they also found similarities and differences. They learned how to discuss sensitive issues in a productive and civil way.
As I looked at their art projects, it was apparent that this activity was eye-opening for many students and gave them an empathy for their fellow classmates. Students talked to each other about racism and what effect it has had on them. One student took a picture of her classmates – all students of color - and overlayed the picture with words from that student because she wanted to share their stories and give them a voice. The words are unforgettable – one student said he feels he can be seen as a threat based on the color of his skin or his body movements. One student was told THIS by another person: “I’m proud of you for not stealing. You’re not like those other Black people.” One student talked about his dad being interrogated by police, fearful of what could happen to his father, knowing he did nothing wrong. The student who displayed these pieces of art said she has known several of these students her entire life but never knew these stories.
I am proud of the teachers for letting our children learn these valuable lessons and gain these insights. These stories need to be shared. The difficult conversations need to be heard. This is how our children learn empathy, how they grow as individuals, and how they develop the skills to get along with others from all backgrounds and learn others’ stories of discrimination. How HB1134 was originally written, our children would never hear these important stories or have these crucial conversations. With the amendments to this bill, it would solve many of serious issues with it, but teacher will still question if they can have these conversations. It doesn’t take away the damage that has been done. Any passage in any form sends a clear message that teachers can’t be trusted. The fear it has instilled in our teachers will never die. Many of the amendments, while they change the bill, are simply statements of how schools already do things. Our board approves curriculum, and we have policies and procedures in place for parents to voice their concerns. We make individual accommodations. We are always looking for ways to get our parents more involved in their children’s education. Therefore I ask you to vote NO on this bill in its entirety. Let US continue our sound practices we have in place. We can step UP our game instead of YOU regulating it. Thank you.