Nondiscrimination and Diverse Choice Schools

Hi Friends!
I hope all of you are smoothly winding down the school year and/or enjoying the swift transition to summer. I have one major update for you and a few smaller ones below.
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The opportunity for input on the PIP draft for the “Policy J-2 Student Equal Educational Opportunities-Nondiscrimination” is now live! Please provide your affirmation for transgender students and your support for the updated PIP. The deadline for input is June 11.
For additional information, here is the message Arlington Gender Identity Allies (AGIA) shared on Facebook: “APS has posted its draft PIP (Policy Implementation Procedures) for its existing nondiscrimination policy (J-2) and is asking for comments. AGIA believes that this draft PIP will help protect transgender and gender-nonconforming students from discrimination. The PIP provides balanced guidelines for APS in a number of different areas, including training for staff, access to bathrooms and locker rooms, dress codes, participation in student activities, protection of privacy, use of names and pronouns, and field trips.
The draft PIP follows or refers to Title IX, FERPA, guidelines of the National School Boards Association, and regulations of the Virginia High School League and the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association, as well as other organizations that seek to protect the civil rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students.
One concern we have with the draft PIP is that it doesn’t stipulate that bathroom access must be convenient. Some transgender students in Arlington have been late for their classes many times because the gender-neutral bathroom is located far from their locker and classrooms, sometimes two floors below.
While we are asking for support from the Arlington community, we are aware that opponents of this PIP have publicly sought support outside of Arlington. Please read and comment in support of the draft PIP on the APS Engage page. Positive comments on each section will help ensure that the PIP isn’t delayed and doesn’t lose any of these important protections.”
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The Century Foundation has a really great report on “Recruiting and Enrolling a Diverse Student Body in Public Choice Schools.” As APS works on its Instructional Pathways, Transportation, and other policies, procedures, and priorities, we can encourage them to make decisions that are holistic in nature rather than in silos, considering the overall impact on all students with an equity lens in mind.
Lauretta Charlton wrote in Race/Related about “What Reparations for Slavery Might Look Like in 2019” with a focus on the numbers for the various proposals being suggested.
One DC is hosting two Juneteenth events. If you’re unfamiliar with this holiday, it celebrates “the emancipation of enslaved Black people in Texas on June 19, 1865.” There will be many such events in our area around June 19.
Try something hard, even if it is uncomfortable.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Affirming Transgender Students

Hi Friends!
I hope everyone is safe and dry after the storm this afternoon!
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I have an upcoming action item for all of you related to nondiscrimination for transgender students. Some of our group members have shared that APS is working on an update of its Policy Implementation Procedure (PIP)related to its “Student Equal Educational Opportunities/Nondiscrimination” policy (J-2) for Transgender/Gender-Nonconforming Students. The updated draft will hopefully be posted soon on Engage (I will let you know when!) and will be an information item at an upcoming School Board meeting (currently scheduled for June 6). The hope is that the update will be implemented over the summer in preparation for the upcoming school year. However, it is possible that the School Board or Superintendent could ask for more research or work to be done on the draft, effectively delaying the improvements needed.
There is general support for these updates, however there is a group of parents/community members actively working against this effort, spreading misinformation and harmful opinions. While APS so far has been getting input from an extensive range of stakeholders and is using resources like GLSEN and the National School Boards Association, these dissenting voices could create enough doubt about the update that a School Board member might hesitate and delay implementation.
For some background about why this is not simply about a policy update, the draft changes will have a measurable positive impact on APS students who are transgender or gender nonconforming. As many studies show, transgender students experience far more violence, depression, and suicide risk than their peers, and the policies school districts implement can either reduce those risks or exacerbate them. Transgender people of color are even more at risk given the compounding factors of their race and their identity. This is an issue of equity, equality, and survival for our children.
That is why I am asking you to please speak up with positive affirmation for our transgender students once the draft is posted, to show broad support for these updates. If you feel comfortable speaking directly to our School Board members or the Superintendent, please do so during open office hours, School Board meetings, or via email or Engage. APS Leadership is generally supportive of the update, but I am told that there are still some hesitations around student privacy v. parental access that could delay approval. Arlington is way behind many other jurisdictions in implementing a transgender policy, and this puts our students at risk. Please show APS and the School Board that most families in Arlington affirm transgender and non-conforming students.
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I wanted to call your attention to a recent situation at Campbell Elementary that really missed an opportunity for learning because of overreacting and unfounded assumptions. While I certainly advocate for calling attention to situations that reinforce white supremacy and systemic racism, when we make assumptions and elevate something minor (or not there) to an extreme level, it’s nearly impossible to have a discussion or come to any balanced conclusion. There are so many ways this learning experience could have happened in a more productive way and I’m hopeful that Campbell will find a way to talk to students about the history of cotton and slavery and the discrimination that continues today. The best thing to do when something like this happens is to take the opportunity to have conversations that are open, that ask questions, that allow for listening and understanding.
This week’s news about the DOJ and APS settlement over the education of our English-learning students was a surprise to everyone I talked to. This includes some great recommendations that will hopefully address some of the inequities many of us have been advocating for over the years. We’ll have to see what the implementation looks like.
The Virginia PTA released a position statement on “Advancing Equity & Diversity” last week, which is wonderful with its outlining of specific things school districts and PTAs can do to advocate for equity and to support diverse communities.
UUCA and VOICE are holding a meeting with the Arlington County Board Chair and the Mayor of Alexandria to advocate for a portion of tax revenue from Amazon’s relocation to the area to be allocated to “housing affordability, equity in education, and equal opportunity for POC.” Join them on Sunday, June 9 from 4:30–6:15 pm at Wakefield High School.
Thank you for your work. What we do and say shows people how we value them. Try to make conscious choices about how you express the value you have for others. This is a life-long effort.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Accountability, Segregation, and Teaching American Slavery

Hi Friends!
Good things happening! I recently finished updating the Resource List — please check it out!
(1) Leslie Mac wrote in Black Youth Project about different types of accountability, which was really eye opening to me.
(2) Southern Poverty Law Center focused their Weekend Read on “Segregation in our public schools” and noted the importance of Brown v. Board of Education then and now.
(3) One of our group members shared a video about Jonathan Metzl’s Dying of Whiteness, also interviewed by Sean Illing at Vox.
(4) One of our group members shared this article from The Seattle Times by Katharine Strange called “It’s in the hands of white parents to dismantle segregation.”
(5) Glenn Wiebe from Tech & Learning wrote about “How to Teach American Slavery — from Teaching Tolerance”
(6) The New York State Bar Association released a report about the connection between school suspensions and what is sometimes known as the “school to prison pipeline.”
(1) A reminder if you’re in Arlington that there are two voting opportunities coming up in early June.- The School Board Caucus happens over three voting dates (June 4, 6, and 8) to determine the candidate the Democratic party will endorse.- June 11 is the election for Commonwealth’s Attorney, Senate of Virginia 31st District, and House of Delegates 49th District seats.
(2) This is a bit distant from Arlington, but SURJ 3A in Maryland is hosting a White Ally Toolkit Workshop on May 21 by Dr. David Campt. Check out the sites even if you can’t attend!
(3) Greater Greater Washington and We Act Radio are hosting an event called “Locked In: Transportation Equity East of the Anacostia” on June 3.
(4) The “2019 Leckey Forum: Planning for Equity and Affordability” will be on June 5.
(5) The community kick-off for Housing Arlington is on May 29.
Keep learning.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Criminal Justice Part 2 plus Resources

Hi Friends!
I’m just going to dive right in.
Related to criminal justice:
(1) Here’s an article about the importance of addressing mass incarceration through our political choices. While I will continue to keep this group largely non-political, there will be some things related to racial/criminal justice work that will be inherently political and I will not shy away from sharing those with you.
(2) If you’re interested in supporting the Commonwealth’s Attorney challenger, friends and I are co-hosting a postcard party on May 14 from 7:00–9:00 pm. Food, beverages, postcards, pens, draft text, and stamps will be provided — just come! Please let me know if you’re interested and I’ll pass along the address. Thanks!
(3) Related to voter suppression, the NAACP wrote in its publication The Crisis Magazine, about the recent voting rights hearings.
(4) And please remember the National Bailout for Mother’s Day (or anytime!).
For some additional resources on a variety of subjects:
(1) The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report about expressions of hate in America’s schools.
(2) I thought this article from the NY Times about gentrification and architecture was really interesting.
(3) I thought this article about white privilege was really thoughtful and explains a lot of the issues.
(4) Embrace Race has a great webinar planned for May 28 about Finding Excellent Children’s Books By and About American Indians.
For more local opportunities to speak up:
(1) Challenging Racism is hosting another book club, this time on “The Hate U Give” on June 10.
(2) Please take the APS PreK-12 Instructional Program Pathways survey before May 13. The survey asks for input about options schools.
(3) From SURJ DC: “Support Juneteenth Week of Action! Stop Police Terror Project DC is bringing back its popular Juneteenth Week of Action and Celebration, June 17–22, 2019. Juneteenth honors those Black ancestors who survived this country’s institution of bondage, and celebrates the Black community’s legacy of resistance, perseverance, and strength of the human spirit. To make the week of action possible, SPTP has launched a fundraising campaign to cover all costs. Please donate via this link and share with your networks.”
Thank you for your work.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Criminal Justice Part 1

Hi Friends!
We haven’t talked a lot about criminal justice in this group yet. But there’s a primary election for Commonwealth’s Attorney coming up on June 11 and this is REALLY, REALLY important when it comes to criminal justice reform in our community.
If this is new to you, let me share some resources:
(1) The NAACP created a Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, including racial disparities in incarceration.
(2) Color of Change created “Winning Justice: The Prosecutor Project” including criminal justice reform goals.
Related to this, Shaun King (civil rights activist) founded the Real Justice PACHe explains the situation better than I can:
“…No single person or position in the entire nation directly impacts every metric of America’s justice system more than one single person — your local prosecutor. Most of the nation calls them District Attorneys or DA’s for short. Some states call them the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Other states and districts call them the State’s Attorney — it’s all basically the same role. It’s the elected prosecutor for your city, county, or region, depending on where you live.
“Our nation has 2,400 elected prosecutors. Not thousands, but millions and millions of cases come through 2,400 officers every single year. And it is these elected prosecutors who decide not just whether or not violent or corrupt cops are prosecuted, but these prosecutors decide how seriously to take those cases and how many staff members to put on them.
“These prosecutors are 95% white, 81% male, and only 1% of them are women of color. They are also, as you can imagine, overwhelmingly conservative. Hundreds of them are effectively serving what amounts to unofficial lifetime appointments because they basically run unopposed term after term. Some of these prosecutors have been in office for over 30 years.”
More is available on this here.
Given the influential power of this office, I am breaking the rules of the group (non-partisan, no endorsements) and endorsing the challenging candidate for Commonwealth’s Attorney. Please let me tell you why.
When I initially looked at the websites of the two candidates for this office, I couldn’t see a quick snapshot of the differences between them. At a glance, they both had some key phrases that I would want to see around criminal justice reform. I was already leaning toward the challenger because she received an endorsement from Shaun King’s Real Justice PAC and she has the support of members of the local Black Parents group.
And then I attended the recent NAACP Criminal Justice Forum, which included the incumbent on the panel. After discussion among the panelists, the conversation was opened up to audience members. One attendee asked each of the panelists to answer yes or no to this question: “Do you believe systemic racism exists and is affecting community members today?” The incumbent was the second person to have the opportunity to respond and her response was appalling. (1) She wasn’t confident about the definition of systemic racism. (2) She defended her office and employees and focused on overt acts of racism and discrimination, which are not what systemic racism is. (3) In her position, which she has held for seven years, she is unclear about why systemic racism is important and whether it has an impact on the communities she serves.
Given the realities of the criminal justice system and its role in perpetuating systemic racism and white supremacy, it is time for someone who not only recognizes these realities, but who is willing to work to change them. This is what Listen. Amplify. Follow. looks like in practice.
Please join me in raising awareness and getting out the vote for the challenger for Commonwealth’s Attorney on June 11. I’ll be sending out a separate email with an invitation to a postcard party if you’d like to join us. Thank you.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.