Dear Brooklyn Collaborative staff and families and the larger school community,
In response to the current social and political climate in our country, the BCS Social Justice Committee (a group made up of school leaders and staff) has been meeting to talk about what we can do to combat the systemic racism in our society that continues to negatively impact black lives and other people of color.
In the past week, Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott lost their lives. These recent deadly shootings of black men are devastating and all too familiar. Our hearts go out to the families of everyone who lost their lives in these shootings that seem to be becoming a common occurrence in our nation.
It is crucial that we, as a school community, take a stand against injustice and racism. In order to make sure that we are actively working in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and against racism in our society, we commit to the following:
1. We commit to talking about race as a staff, with students and families.
In both student and staff crews, we have spent time in the past few years having important conversations about topics in the news. After the chokehold that caused the death of Eric Garner, we invited his daughter Erica Garner to come in to spend the day with staff and students. She spoke about choosing to become an activist as a result of her father’s death and spoke to students about how they too can be activists in school and in the world. The entire lower grades participated in an assembly and candle light vigil to honor his memory and the memories of others who have lost their lives unnecessarily.
Last school year, our entire staff read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ letter to his son, Between the World and Me, and discussed how we can be supportive to the young men and students of color in our school community.
We believe that we need to talk openly and regularly about race in order to move forward as a country. In each crew, we will have weekly “courageous conversations” where we dedicate time to speak about these topics that impact us all, including race, class, privilege and allyship.
2. We commit to developing and implementing a curriculum that ensures that students of color’s stories and voices are represented widely.
We believe that an anti-racist curriculum is a cornerstone to support the Black Lives Matter movement and working with our students. Students need to see themselves represented widely in the history they study and the books and texts they read. They also need to regularly have the opportunity to share their stories and, as educators, it is our responsibility to listen.
Many of our expeditions and case studies already reflect a wide representation of social justice issues as they relate to marginalized communities. Last year, we started a Social Justice Committee among the staff to help ensure we are making this even more of a priority as a school. We will continue to develop lessons and curriculum to showcase that while All Lives Matter. Historically, it has not been the case that people of color have equal access to the rights and privileges that others do. Therefore it is our responsibility to support this important movement that promotes equal access and equal rights to all.
We have committed to this as a school since our founding in 2001. It is because of this commitment that we have such extraordinary results in our high school graduation rates, college admissions and college retention rates.
3. We commit to fighting for school integration in district 15.
We believe that one key step to dismantling racism in society is to dismantle segregation in our schools. We continue to petition officials for policy shifts that support integration and to work with the admissions office to continue to create a student body that reflects the diversity of NYC.
While NYC has the largest school district in the United States, it is also the most segregated based on both race and class. We have seen results already with several schools in NYC becoming part of the diversity initiative and the new admissions pilot started by our chancellor to promote diversity in schools. Our sister school BNS is part of this pilot program that targets important subgroups. We are proud of the fact that BCS is one of the most diverse schools in District 15.
4. We commit to continuing to use restorative practices with our students to ensure that our school disciplinary work does not contribute to the school to prison pipeline or the criminalization of black and latino youth.
We believe that when students struggle, it is our responsibility to listen to their side of the story and to teach them the skills needed to resolve conflict and restore with the community. We believe that all students need to be included in the community. BCS has been using Restorative Practices for the past four years. Since our implementation, our rate of suspension has decreased dramatically.
We will continue to look closely at our classroom and school disciplinary practices, be reflective about meeting the needs of all students and analyze and address disproportionality where needed.
5. We commit to building relationships between our students and our local community and police force.
We will continue to pair our juniors into internships working with the law and law enforcement. We want to work to dismantle the myth that seems prevalent in our nation that black and brown children are in any way dangerous, less intelligent or less deserving of success. We will invite local officers to sit in on our roundtables and PBAT panels so they can see our students shine as they share their learnings and understanding and opinions about the world.
Finally as educators, we believe it is our responsibility to continue to educate ourselves. Here are just a few of the books/ article lists that we have found useful:
A Resource List from Border Crossers: an organization committed to building a liberated world for our children that reflects the truth that Black Lives Matter, by training and empowering educators to dismantle patterns of racism and injustice in their classrooms, schools, and communities.
A Reading List for America: by Maira Liriano, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division (from the NYC public library)
Families, we want to hear your voice! Please tell us what you have been doing and what you think we can be doing better. We welcome your thoughts.
Brooklyn Collaborative Social Justice Committee