SARASOTA — Parents and students asked the Sarasota County School Board to acknowledge and condemn racism during the hearing of the citizen’s Tuesday evening.
For several months, Black Lives Matter, teaching about anti-racism and the movement, and cultural sensitivity training for teachers has been a topic of discussion in front of the School Board.
A student-led group called Sarasota Students 4 Justice presented a proposal to Superintendent Brennan Asplen and the board to add BLM and anti-racist content to the curriculum, including literature.
Their proposal, posted on the website Medium for public review, includes four initiatives. First, the group proposes creating a board of students, which the School Board can continuously discuss new ways BLM can be added to the curriculum. According to the proposal, the board of students would ensure student thoughts and opinions are considered.
The group also recommended a list of anti-racist literature for middle and high school students, as well as literature appropriate for younger students.
Sarasota Students 4 Justice recommends the district continue to use supplemental resources like Brain Pop and other educational resources in discussing issues surrounding race.
Lastly, the group proposes cultural training for teachers.
Head of Sarasota Students 4 Justice Nora Mitchell spoke at the board meeting Tuesday night, reiterating the group’s proposal and the necessity for action.
“When we say we want content about racism and the BLM movement included in our curriculum, we are saying we want teachers to be equipped with the ability and resources to appropriately and respectfully teach and facilitate conversation about issues like racism, police brutality and the BLM movement,” she said.
She dispelled the notion that incorporating BLM into the curriculum meant “indoctrinating” students, and said to suggest so would be offensive to the teachers.
“By continuing to suppress and exclude content about BLM and racism in our schools, the Sarasota County School district is continuing a vicious cycle of inequality and discrimination for people of color,” Mitchell continued.
“Through continuation of this vicious cycle, our School Board is upholding the pillars of racism and inequity and is allowing these ideas to flourish,” she said.
A similar petition was brought to the board from a representative from the Manasota Anti-Racism Coalition, which presented the following proposals:
• Establish a racial equity and inclusion committee
• Invest in anti-racism and implicit bias training
• Recruit and retain black and indigenous educators, administrators and staff
• Invest in development of student support networks
• Institute a culturally responsive and anti-racist curriculum
• Ensure equitable access to educational opportunities in honors programs
In regards to Black Lives Matter being added to the curriculum, one parent urged the School Board to be outspoken and intentional when addressing racism.“Let your non-white students know that, you, too as the School Board will not be silent about their suffering and the racism they face everyday in and outside the school,” she said.
“This is not black versus white, this is everyone versus racism. I encourage you today to bravely support an anti racist education in Sarasota schools,” she continued.