Welcome to the Friday, the 13th version of the Weekend Voice. I’m not superstitious, but I know teachers who are, and I just want to say I honor that.
This week, I’m thinking about school safety. I may return to this topic, but there are two sorts of school safety - physical security and emotional safety.
School safety is on my mind because we’ve all seen horrifying video clips showing police officers handcuffing small children in Kindergarten and 1st grade. For instance, many school districts in Minneapolis signed an agreement not to have police officers inside school buildings following the murder of George Floyd.
A Bethesda Beat article describes how in Montgomery County, Maryland, the largest school district in Maryland, police officers were a presence in high schools starting in 2002.
Although Black students are 5% percent of the student population, data shows that they are disciplined about 50% more than White students. Anecdotally, students say they were punished for minor rule-breaking while their White classmates got away with the same behavior. The Black and Brown students said seeing officers with guns in the school hallways made them feel unsafe.
After the School Resource Officers were pulled from the schools, there was an effort to have officers assigned to schools so they would be available but not necessarily within the school. As students have returned to school after online learning during the pandemic, there has been an increase in violent incidents and school shootings.
Montgomery County, Maryland, is now considering having school resource officers in school, where they will be given an office. They will not be walking the halls and will be available to provide a rapid response as needed.
And that brings me to my Livestream. My guest this week was Desmond Williams, a career educator who was the principal of an all-boys school in the DC area. He is the author of The Burning House: Educating Black Boys in America. He is also the founder of Nylinka School Solutions, an Educational Consulting firm.
“Black people lack political power in our communities,” Williams observed.
He spoke of the importance of differentiation. Teachers need to decenter themselves and center our students. The model of the teacher at the front of the room is toxic, Williams said. In many cases, students have checked out.
Williams emphasized that we need “schools for Black boys, not schools with Black boys,” - and we need to create a sense of belonging. We can create belonging by offering leadership programs or rites of passage. Both Williams and I had that one teacher in high school, a coach, who believed in us and showed us that we could succeed.
He said, “You are not crazy, and we are not alone,” adding, “the work is so important - keep going.”
This week, my message to you from Desmond Williams is “keep going.” You are so needed. And if you get a chance to check out the Livestream, please do.
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Every Friday you can expect a small and informative message from the Leading Equity Center. The Weekend Voice is meant to challenge your thoughts of education today and to provoke you to take action in your schools.