The Rochester City School District’s upcoming “Black Lives Matter at School Day” has received national attention recently, after the Fox News network questioned whether discussions around the national Black Lives Matter Movement would be appropriate for younger, school-age children during the initiative.
“Now there is a New York public school district that will celebrate Black Lives Matter day,” a Fox & Friends First host stated. “…The district says that this is not tied to any protest, or the Black Lives Mater movement across the country, but a resource page includes links to the website for the national movement. And, as we understand it, children as young as first grade will be talking about this.”
A small group of city parents and teachers have proposed the voluntary observance, which will take place on Feb. 17, and proponents of the day currently have the support of the school board, the Rochester Teachers Association, and The Association of Supervisors and Administrators of Rochester.
According to the district’s website, the day will not be a part of the larger “Black Lives Matter Movement;” however, it will be “a day of education, dialogue and action that will actively engage a significant number of educational communities throughout Monroe County, in activities which support understanding and affirmation of Black Lives.”
“What central office, the school board, and the superintendent have said is, it’s within the discretion of the teachers,” RCSD board of education president Van White stated. “This is an entirely voluntary exercise, to give our students, and our staff, and families the chance to focus on what that means to them. And, we expect that our staff is in the best position to judge how that coverage can take place in a comfortable way, when it comes to first graders, or second graders, right on up to our seniors. The interesting thing is that, if you look at the story from Fox, it makes reference to the national website, and, while this effort is not connected to the national movement; if you do go to that website, the first value that the national website identifies is diversity. That’s their first guiding principle. While this effort is not connected with that, that’s something we all can stand behind. This notion that we can celebrate our differences and commonalities, and respect them. Whether it was a first grader, or a twelfth grader, I think that would be a very valuable exercise. And, again, we believe that the teachers are in the best position to know what level of conversation is appropriate. No one is dictating to them from central office what that conversation should be like.”
Christopher Widmaier, a Science Teacher at the World of Inquiry School No. 58, and one of the event’s organizers, also said teachers have been given the resources to decide which lessons are developmentally appropriate for students.
“There are many resources available through the district and outside organizations for teachers to understand the best way for them to approach this topic,” Widmaier said in an e-mailed statement. “As for the day not being connected to Black Lives Matter nationally, we do not have an affiliation or endorsement from the national organization. The inclusion of their website is for both teachers and students (when the teacher feels it is appropriate). Our goal was to engage people in a dialogue, and a good example of how the website could be used in class would be to read the principles of Black Lives Matter, and discuss what they think about them. We wanted to give students and teachers an opportunity to share their thoughts, emotions, and opinions, and this is just one resource for doing that.”
Widmaier said the event’s organizers plan to reflect on the day’s success, and the group will also begin to discuss further action, in early March.
Visit https://blacklivesmatteratschool.org/ for additional information regarding the district’s “Black Lives Matter at School” day, and visit https://www.facebook.com/FoxFriendsFirst/videos/1458138154197909/ to view footage from the original Fox News segment.