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BPS responds to national headlines about its Emancipation Curriculum

BPS says curriculum is framed by BLM principles
Posted at 12:28 AM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 00:28:08-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Buffalo Public Schools is standing by its Emancipation Curriculum that was implemented this year. The curriculum is framed by Black Lives Matter guiding principles. Associate Superintendent for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Initiatives Fatima Morrell said the curriculum is designed to empower students and teach historically marginalized voices.

“A curriculum is the most powerful aspect of schools," Morrell said.

The curriculum has been in national headlines. A Fox News article wrote the district tells students 'all white people play a part in perpetuating systemic racism.' That story is based off an article from City Journal, a publication from the think tank think the Manhattan Institute.

Morrell said the quote about systemic racism is taken out of context from a four page reading given to middle schoolers.

“What I’m afraid has occurred here, is that we have had a decontextualization of the actual article itself," Morrell said. "We’ve pulled out one phrase that would be very sensational.”

The article is called "The Definition of Systemic Racism in Sociology." It's written by sociologist Nicki Lisa Cole.

The full sentence from the article reads, "While all White people and even many POC play a part in perpetuating racism, it is important to recognize the powerful role played by White elites in maintaining this system."

“It's not our job to change someone’s research, what we do is we give our students, we give them the research base and we are teaching our students to critically think and to question all things that they learn in schools,” Morrell said.

Morrell said BPS adopted some ideas from DC and Seattle school districts. The national Black Lives Matter education movement began in Seattle.

Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization Co-Chair Rachel Fix Dominguez said she likes the way the curriculum incorporates art and technology.

“I feel strongly that this is an important and necessary component of our contemporary education system, and I am excited for what this means for my child's education in BPS,” she said.

BPTO executive board member Keith Jones said the curriculum was overdue.

In September, 7 Eyewitness spoke to parents and teachers who felt school was not the right place for these discussions.

One video that was part of the September curriculum for Pre-K through 1st grade showed the faces of Black children killed by police. We asked the district how it's explained to students.

“A research based conversation around this issue with our young kids, developmentally appropriate conversation about the video, and then how do we forgive, where’s the forgiveness, how do we move on, and you don’t have to be afraid,” Morrell said.

Morrell said all material is grade level appropriate, and teachers played a role in crafting it. Examples of other early grade material include picture books with follow-up worksheets.

Morrell said the emancipation curriculum is not about politics, and teachers can choose when to infuse its content into standard lessons.

“Historically, we know that we’ve been marginalized in these spaces, so we are really just trying to piece together the whole quilt of human experience in our curriculum and deliver that,” she said.

Click here to view the Emancipation Curriculum, and here for more curriculum information from BPS.