By ERIN ROLL
Just in time for the start of Black History Month, Montclair’s students and teachers are going to take a look at where the schools stand on equity in the classroom.
The schools are going to be participating in a Week of Action for the first week of February in recognition of Black Lives Matter.
The Week of Action is part of a larger program called Black Lives Matter in the Schools.
The program is being organized by TURN (Teachers Undoing Racism Now), a Montclair-based group founded last year to raise awareness about equity in the schools.
Montclair will have five daily themes: “The Racial History of Montclair,” “The School-to-Prison Pipeline/Prison Industrial Complex,” “Getting Real About Education in Montclair,” “Students Speak, Teachers Listen” and “Voices of Black Women.”
Brian Ford, a teacher at Montclair High School and an organizer of the TURN events, said there was no official program. “The goal is that as many teachers as possible use the teaching resources TURN has compiled to engage students in the daily themes during the school day, and that as many staff, students and community members attend our evening events as possible.”
In Montclair, there has been discussion in recent months about equity in the classroom, especially after a series of recent reports suggested that students of color were more likely to be suspended or disciplined than their peers in other demographic groups.
The achievement gap is mentioned in a list of changes and subject areas that the Montclair TURN organizers released ahead of the Week of Action.
“The district needs a comprehensive plan to eliminate this discrimination, and specifically address the role racism plays,” the list said. “While we are encouraged that the district has begun the process of implementing restorative justice, we feel progress has been low and staff, student and community awareness of this initiative has been low.”
The list also calls for the district to help make the community more aware of the Amistad Bill – a 2002 law that requires schools to include African-American history in their K-12 social studies lessons – and to increase the number of teachers of color hired in the district.
“Teachers organizing themselves is extremely powerful,” said Kendra Johnson, the district’s assistant superintendent for equity. “I support their efforts to promote agency around critical conversations impacting children right here in Montclair.”