Monthly Archives: December 2016

Sanctuary

 

253“Let it be known that, as of January 20, 2017, the undersigned staff of Mueller Charter School and Bayfront Charter High School declares our K-12 school community to be a safe haven and a sanctuary for all students and their families; it is our collective resolve to protect and insulate every individual from persecution, harassment, hate speech or intimidation.”

Simple as that.  Our Safe Haven Initiative.  We declare that at least our two schools–Bayfront and Mueller, will be sanctuaries against anything that the trump,inc. government can bring.

Well, almost anything.

At the very least, this resolution is a strategic response to the climate of heightened fear and anxiety that now exists for many school-aged students and their families;  to the intolerant rhetoric made over the course of the 2016 presidential race; and to the steady increase in hate speech at public and private K-12 schools across the United States of America. Among other things, trump,inc. promised to end an executive order that granted temporary status to immigrant students living in the country illegally. During his campaign, he also promised to launch a “deportation force” and withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities.

He has already built his wall.

The president elect, and the cadre of bigots, blowhards and billionaires that he has selected to serve in his administration, have collectively made statements that are denigrating to women, immigrants, Latinos, African Americans, LGBT, Moslems, people with special needs, and even veterans. Our school community is a rainbow comprised of all of these groups and we happen to be unapologetically committed to diversity, inclusion, and justice for all students.

In recent weeks, the College for All Coalition, with the support of more than 120 other organizations, has been urging California educators at both the K-12 and university level to stand with them in defiance of any effort from federal authorities to harass our students or families.  So we are standing:

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We are designating both of our charters as “Sanctuary Schools”  

–Specifically, we will refuse to comply with immigration authorities regarding deportations and raids, and will refuse to allow any immigration agents onto our school campuses without a judicial warrant.

–We will guarantee privacy of all our stakeholders and will refuse to release information regarding the immigration status of students, staff, or community members.

–We will continue to assist our families, as we have always done,  with resources and services such as immigration legal assistance, mental health counseling, and undocumented student support programs.

We will strategically allocate resources to promote diversity, inclusion, and intergroup harmony.

We will provide the tools, training and resources to nurture a learning environment free from bullying and discrimination. In the face of intolerance, we will make sure that every adult that works in our schools has the information and training they need to be effective advocates for all students.

We Vow to Protect All Students from Bullying, Intimidation, Harassment, or Discrimination

We will insure that every staff member understands and enforces state and federal laws regarding bullying, intimidation, harassment, or discrimination on the basis of protected categories, including actual or perceived immigration status, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

–If and when such incidents of harassment do occur, our schools will take prompt action to ensure accountability and justice through restorative justice and other approaches that focus on repairing the harm caused to the victim and the wider community.

–Counseling and other supportive services will be provided to victims, but also made more broadly available to all of our students.

–We will compile data on every incident of bullying, intimidation, harassment, or discrimination on the basis of the protected categories listed above.

We will Promote Civic Literacy as a School-Wide Theme: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
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Our students will need to find their own voice.  They must know their history, their civil rights, and the promise of both the State and Federal Constitution.  They must learn how to monitor their government and their world. They must learn how to research and read critically and distinguish between propaganda and the truth.  They must learn to speak up, advocate, defend, protest, and organize when they observe social injustices around them.

We will Challenge Every Student to Rise to Their Academic Potential and Compete on Merit

 We can’t rely on any special accommodations or assistance to be structured into external school or social systems. Our students must demonstrate—by every measure– a profound capacity for academic excellence. They have to learn to compete on an uneven playing field… and they have to excel.

America will change on January 20.  We are taking no chances. While we’ve never had to organize to protect our students from their own president, we have also never experienced such a hostile takeover.

We’ve never had to fortify the walls of holy ground, or declare our house of learning: a  sanctuary.

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Power and Privilege and the Boiling Frog

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America, the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”–A Nation at Risk, 1983

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All schools have a choice. My schools have a choice. Bayfront Charter High School and Mueller are at a familiar crossroads, and the world is not waiting. On January 20, Trump will begin to govern as he promised and we can prepare our students to compete in that game or we can soldier on—business as usual.

And as usual, we ain’t taking that chance.

Inside my building are Latinos, immigrants, girls, African Americans, LGBT kids, Moslems, Jews and children of democrats. At least that describes 99% of them. And of those, 85% qualify for the free federal lunch program on the basis of their parents’ income. They are–if we falter– the next generation’s working poor. And they are all in our new government’s crosshairs to either deport or demoralize.

America’s educational system has experienced multiple defining moments during which sweeping social or political events have led to ideological and transformational change in the direction of our schools.

Think US History 101:

In the earliest days of our country’s founding, there was a clear religious motive behind teaching kids to read. As waves of Christians colonized the new world, they brought their Bibles and handed down their favorite verses to children who were expected to spread the good news. After the Revolutionary War and the subsequent ratification of the US Constitution, our Founders banked on an “informed citizenry” to nurture and grow the new experiment in democratic governance .

Fast forward 100 years and the industrial revolution churned kids out of farms and prairie schools and into factories that prepared kids for the factories.

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Then in 1958, the Russians launched a rocket into space, and the subsequent race to the heavens was on. Sputnik scared the crap out of America’s post-WWII “Greatest Generation” who realized in the span of one evening newscast—that their kids had somehow been passed up in math and science. So the education pendulum swung to math and science with a vengeance—and schoolkids paid.

Then there was the Civil Rights era. The malaise of the 70’s. Forced desegregation and bussing and waves of white flight to suburbs and private schools. And education was the medium for maintaining the sociocultural and economic advantage that was a perceived birthright of white families.
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The ominous warning of “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 unleashed the pendulum again. Reagan’s ‘rising tide of mediocrity’.

Then the Apple IIe drove a whole generation of post-Viet Nam War era teachers to ask “what am I supposed to do with an Apple IIe?” And they used them as door stops on the theory that this too shall pass.

By the early 2000’s Bush had appropriated no child left behind from the Children Defense Fund and we were awash in still another pet project of Republicanism: “back to basics” and the core belief that what we really need to do in schools is just test the hell out of kids and fire the teachers and the schools that can’t produce evidence of extraordinary achievement.

Public education. America’s whipping boy. Always something.

So now what?

George Bush’s “soft bigotry of low expectations” has given way to trump’s straight up, bold-face racism. And our students have heard every word.

ap_77642174753What is the purpose of schooling in a trumpian culture where bluster and lies and bullying and misogyny are rewarded with keys to the White House; when shadowy election schemes and gerrymandering and voter suppression and an archaic electoral “college” are intentionally designed to undermine democracy; when in 2016 it is harder for citizens to cast their ballot then it was in the era of poll taxes and literacy requirements; when it is impossible for citizens to believe that their vote is even really counted; when half our nation considers it anarchy to remind ourselves that black lives matter?

unknownRemember the parable of the boiling frog:

If you place a frog in a pan of hot water– he’ll jump right out. But if you place that same  frog in a pan of cold water, then bring it gradually to a boil—he will be oblivious to the changing temperature. Pretty soon it’s too freaken hot to jump!

Our schools move too often like the boiling frog. They wait until it is too late to jump, and for our children, even generations at a time, the results are fatal.

One thing this past election has taught us is that our students need the skills to navigate a massive sea of propaganda and misinformation that seems to routinely persuade the adults to vote against their own best interests. They need a discerning eye that separates entertainment from “the truth”; that rejects Facebook’s brand of political discourse and revives the tradition of deep critical thinking and informed debate.

They need to compete in a workforce that demands higher levels of thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurialism.

They will need to find their generation’s “true North”. And then their voice. And then a spirit of activism which is in their DNA: empathy, vigilance, authentic patriotism, and advocacy for others.

Our kids will need the armor of resiliency– in the face of an apparent national sentiment that their success, their future…their very lives may not matter at all.

So in our school at least, at Bayfront Charter high School, EVERY student will be…

  • Ready for college whether they go there or not; and they will be
  • Equipped with the real 21st Century skills: including the ability to think, create, communicate and play nice with others; and they will be
  • Masters of technologies that are befitting of digital natives; and
  • Keen and curious observers of their community– with a depth of civic literacy and   global awareness; and finally, they will be
  • Beneficiaries of learning that is confined by neither time nor space.

In defiance of who this president promises to be, we will be proactive. The water’s on the boil… but our children rise.

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