Originally started by Seattle teachers in 2016, Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action (BLMSWA) is a week-long focus on the ’13 Guiding Principles of the Black Lives Matter movement.’ Such principles include ‘fostering a queer-affirming network’ by freeing an individual from the ‘tight grip of heteronormative thinking’ and ‘disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.’
BLMSWA is endorsed by several educator organizations including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American School Counselor Association, and the National Education Association. The AFT passed a resolution which, among other things, will ‘encourage its members to wear Black Lives Matter at School shirts to school that week and teach lessons about related topics.’
Here’s how some states have celebrated BLMSWA in past years:
In 2022, the Aurora School in California incorporated ‘Julian is a Mermaid – Drag Queen Story Hour’ into its lesson planning for grade schoolers. The video, hosted on the YouTube channel ‘Queer Kid Stuff,’ is labeled for kids ages 3+ and features a ‘tie wearing queer lady,’ ‘her non-binary best-stuffed friend, Teddy’ and Angel from Drag Queen Story Hour.
District of Columbia
The D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice is a ‘network of educators who seek to strengthen and deepen social justice teaching.’ One of their pages includes the PK-2 lesson titled ‘Introduction of Transgender and Nonbinary Identities with ‘I am Jazz.” According to the website, the purpose of the lesson is for students as young as four to ‘be able to define the words ‘transgender’ and ‘nonbinary’ and give examples of ways to support people of all gender identities.’
The teacher is instructed to pose a series of questions to the students about how to ‘know if someone is a boy or a girl.’ One of the questions states ‘How do doctors and parents guess if we’re a boy or girl?’ The teacher is then prompted to respond to student answers by stating that ‘doctors use our bodies to guess what our gender is’ but scientists are ‘finding out that only having two choices, boy or girl, doesn’t really make a lot of sense.’
On January 21, 2021, the Board of Education of Howard County approved its resolution ‘recognizing Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action’ and the district’s participation in the event.
The day-two lesson plan for middle school, titled ‘Diversity and Globalism,’ states that the ‘concept of privilege is difficult to understand and particularly difficult for those who have privilege to acknowledge.’ It continues by suggesting that the teacher ‘do personal research and reflection’ so that the teacher has ‘identified the impact of privilege’ on their life.
As part of the lesson, students are directed to complete the ‘Privilege or Oppressed? Worksheet’ by ‘identifying the places where they enjoy privilege and places where their status causes them to lack privilege.’ The plan directs the teacher by pointing out that ‘in order to understand globalism, students must comprehend privilege and understand that there are structural inequities.’ Continuing: ‘point out that people who benefit from privilege are unaware of the existence of the benefits they receive through their status.’
The staff-created lesson plan adds that ‘teachers should be prepared that this is not a place for controversy about sexual orientation,’ and that teachers ‘should not allow for space where sexuality is debated.’
Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action will be held from February 6-10, for participating schools and districts.