Public School Advocates Want City To Make Good On Anti-Bias Training Promise

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In the wake of the Charlottesville riots, Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to eliminate bias in New York public schools – but some parents are skeptical of his intent to follow through.

In June of this year, the City Council announced that more than $1 million had been allocated to fund anti-bias training programs for over 600 New York teachers, beginning this school year. However, the city has yet to release any official dates for when the training programs will begin.

Thus about 50 parents as well as advocacy organizations rallied outside the city Department of Education headquarters (the former Tweed Building as part of the City Hall complex) to urge de Blasio and the DOE to follow through on its promise his promises.

While more than 85 percent of New York students are people of color, 60 percent of the city’s public school teachers are caucasian,

At the rally, which was rescheduled to accommodate de Blasio and the DOE releasing state test score results, attendees expounded on the importance of helping teachers understand how their racial privilege may influence their teaching, and promoting ethnic and cultural sensitivity in an era of racial tension, xenophobia and white supremacy.

To underscore the urgency of the matter, the attendees cited several troubling statistics regarding the state of New Yorks public schools. For instance, while more than 85 percent of New York students are people of color, 60 percent of the city’s public school teachers are caucasian, according to a report by the New York City Independent Budget Office.

In a release sent out the day after the rally from the Coalition of Educational Justice (CEJ), it was claimed that, Of the hundreds of courses offered to NY State teachers to fulfill professional development requirements, only a few dozen address race, culture or bias.

The CEJ believes these trainings will increase teachers’ awareness of how their own racial and cultural identities impact their teaching; help teachers draw on diverse culture and backgrounds to engage students; and help teachers address racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia and other forms of bias in their schools.

DOE spokesperson Will Mantell assured skeptics that anti-bias training will be a top priority for the DoE in the coming school year.

“Ensuring inclusive and welcoming learning environments for all our students, staff and families is a priority, and thats why were partnering with the City Council to fund anti-bias training for over 600 educators,said Mantell. This builds on our work to hire more male teachers of color, train 2,000 new teachers in culturally responsive strategies, and ensure multiple perspectives are represented in our curricula and resources.

While the DOE grapples with the issue of diversity and bias within the teaching ranks of regular public schools, several public charter school networks, such as Uncommon Schools, have already begun the process as KCP exclusively reported earlier this month.  

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