Seeking Racial Justice at Northern Highlands
Hundreds of members of the community have come together to ask Northern Highlands to commit to three concrete actions as a first step towards both improving students’ overall learning experience and ensuring the school adequately fulfills its role in advancing racial justice.
I. Regularly address racial justice in every classroom: Teachers of all subjects must incorporate present-day issues of race into both the content and context of the curriculum. Concretely, this means that every course should meet one or more of the following requirements:
- At least 1 in 10 major pieces of work (e.g., books, art, films) shown in the class must be created by each of the following:
- A living Black person.
- Another living person of color.
- A living member of another underrepresented group (e.g., LGBTQ, differently abled).
- At least 1 in 5 topics covered in the class must directly address racial justice and inequity issues, especially those currently endured by Black people in the United States. This can be done by interweaving implicit bias, covert racism, and structural racism into class discussions; their presence in the course should be identified in the course syllabus and should be related to the subject at hand, e.g.:
- In Science classrooms, discuss the authors of the textbook and how their personal experiences and ideologies have shaped the work of the text; challenge the students to think critically about perspectives that are regarded as “fact,” and which are routinely silenced.
- In English classrooms, discuss the art of storytelling through multiple lenses (e.g. postcolonial, feminist): Who has the ability to become a writer? What apparatuses present barriers to sharing insight into particular perspectives? How do these barriers shape our idea of “Classic literature”, “proper” poetry, fiction vs. nonfiction?
- At least 1 in 5 questions must use racial inequities or justice issues as the context for assignments (e.g., homework or exam questions, essay prompts, research papers).
II. Provide regular extracurricular programming to educate students and teachers on racial bias and privilege. Concretely, this means that at least four times a year, each student and teacher should:
- Undergo training to learn how to: (I) identify and understand their own implicit bias and privilege, (II) engage in uncomfortable conversations about race, or (III) normalize being racially sensitive by reacting to their own missteps when engaging with racial issues.
- The newly-planned wellness center staff and programming could be partially dedicated to developing and facilitating these discussions.
- One of the School Student Assistance Coordinators could be dedicated to supporting minority students and educating faculty and staff.
- Be presented with opportunities to hear the stories and experiences of Black Americans and make conscious efforts to bring in diverse speakers to regular school programming. (e.g., through career fair, speakers).
III. Establish support systems for BIPOC at Northern Highlands. Concretely, this means:
- Establish protocols for teachers or administrators to follow when they witness inappropriate racial commentary (e.g., contacting guidance counselors, reaching out to victims of racial comments).
- Ensure at least one Black guidance counselor or wellness center staff member is employed by the school.
- Ensure at least one member of the administration is trained in diverse recruiting practices and that this administration official plays a decision-making role in the hiring process.