The Melanated Educators’ Collective (MEC) along with the Racial Justice Organizing Committee have presented a list of 10 demands to enhance antiracist policies at the Schlool District of Philadelphia (SDP).
MEC cofounder Angela Crawford helped draft the list of the demands which were presented in mid-July. The district has not yet committed to anything, and its current focus is on developing a COVID-19 safe reopening plan. But Superintendent Dr. William Hite insists his administration is ready to do the work.
“We are ready to take on the work to provide our children with an education that is protecting and just, as well as ensure that all of our staff feel supported and valued,” district spokesperson Monica Lewis said in a statement provided to Billy Penn.
The SDP has announced an “Equity Coalition,” a district-wide body it says will create and audit an action plan. However, but Hite reportedly sent a district-wide email callout for teachers willing to participate.
These are the demands:
Bias and racial equity boards: Every school in Philly’s district to have its own “Bias and Racial Equity Board,” outside of administrative control where students and teachers can report instances of discrimination. They include incidents of Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and other forms.
More founding for counselors and police school abolition: Last month, the SDP announced it would rebrand its school police officers as “safety officers.” MEC members want to abolish school police completely and replace them with trauma-informed staff members like counselors and social workers. The Philadelphia Student Union held a recent demonstration to call for the same thing.
More special education support for schools: The MEC members say they have noticed disproportionate special education programming across different SDP schools. To bridge the gaps, they demand standardized programming and equipment for students with special needs in every public school. Additionally, schools should be regularly monitored to ensure quality in special education programming.
Better training and LGBT equity enforcement: This demand means, per the MEC, that students should be addressed by their correct name and pronouns by all school staff. They should also have easy access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
More recruitment of African-American educators and educators of color: They are demanding programs that encourage African- American educators and educators of color to teach in Philly like pay raises, extra certification programs and teacher recruitment programs in city high schools.
Implement “culturally responsive” curricula: The MEC demands courses on Indigenous, African-Americans and ethnic history from 1st through 12th grade, and that the district “foster knowledge about social classes, genders, religions, disabilities, sexual orientations (perceived or known) and gender identities (perceived or known).”
Mandatory anti-racist training : Activists say anti-racism trainings among SDP staff should be annual and required for everyone from teachers to school police, principals and climate staff.
Non-toxic schools, free of lead, asbestos and pests: School District buildings have been plagued with lead and asbestos for decades with dozens of instances being reported in schools all over the city in recent years. MEC: “No child should be in a building where there are asbestos, lead, COVID-19, and mold risks.”
Equitable access to magnet schools and honors courses: They’re demanding the SDP reserve 30% to 35% of the spots in magnet schools and Advanced Placement (AP) courses for African-American students. All students should be able to take AP tests regardless of whether they can afford the fees.
Board endorsement of Black Lives Matter Week of Action at schools: The group helped create the Black Lives Matter Week of Action, which drafted a curriculum and community events for kindergarten through higher ed students to learn about what Black Lives Matter means in Philadelphia. The MEC says it would be a “show of good faith” if the SDP committed to taking an entire week to celebrate Black students and teachers and uplift their voices.