KIRO-7 News accepting applicants for internship program for students of color

KIRO-7 News in Seattle is accepting applications for an internship program for students of color interested in broadcast journalism. Here's the full press release:

 

In partnership with the Northwest Journalists of Color, KIRO 7 will offer one recipient the opportunity to be an intern for the KIRO 7 News Department.

An internship at KIRO 7 provides the opportunity to be embedded in the news environment to learn about the behind-the-scenes workings of a TV and digital newsroom. Interns will assist the producers in researching stories and writing show scripts. Interns will also have the opportunity to accompany KIRO 7 news crews in the field on occasion.

In addition to learning in the newsroom, this intern will be able to meet people from other departments to understand the business of the television station as a whole. The program is open to college students.

The intern will be selected by a three-judge panel, including members of the KIRO 7 news staff and NJC program volunteers.

Download the application at http://www.aajaseattle.org/scholarships/

Internship Requirements:

  • The student must be registered at a University, College, Community College or Vocational-Technical Institute.
  • The student should have junior or senior status, or be in the last year of a Community College or Vocational-Technical program.

All internships require 20-30 hours per week covering a period of 10-16 weeks, depending on the school’s quarter or semester length. The internship starts in June.

While KIRO 7 considers the internship program format valuable in observing the student’s attitude, talents, and skills, it is understood that no guarantees are given for future employment.

Students will only be offered an internship after completing a pre-employment drug and background screening. Proof of eligibility to work in the U.S. will be required upon employment.

What do we do about federal budget cuts that target our most vulnerable kids?

By Jacq Williams

I'm struggling, listening to NPR lately. No, not the spring pledge drive. Just the daily horrors flowing out of Washington D.C.

Last week, I was driving to drop my cranky toddler off at her grandmother's house when the local NPR affiliate aired a piece on the new budget proposal, which slashes to ribbons so many social and environmental programs that it's actually difficult to figure out which one to get the most upset about. Then I heard this quote from Mick Mulvaney, White House budget chief:

"So, let’s talk about after-school programs generally. They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? And that’s what they’re supposed to do, they’re supposed to help kids who can’t — who don't get fed at home, get fed so that they do better at school. Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, helping kids do better at school."

I am not going to say that I pulled my car over and began to weep, because I didn't ... quite. I breathed deeply, gripped the steering wheel, and asked myself: Is this really it? Have we crossed over into this place? Not just the place where we have to defend feeding a child for no other reason than the fact that she is chronically hungry, but a place where a White House top official is going to claim (falsely, by every single account) that we have no demonstrable evidence that feeding children increases their test scores? As if it's not a given fact of life that when your basic survival needs are met you can focus on other things? As if that's the reason most of us would sign on to such a program in the first place?

It was unbelievable, the way those words rolled of his tongue: "Get fed so they do better at school."

I looked up the quote as soon as I parked, realizing there are only two revisions to this sentence which would make it palatable. One: A period after the words "Get fed."  Two: A complete re-phrasing: These are programs who are supposed to help children who don't get fed at home, get fed so that they do not starve. Maybe it's because I'm a mom, but I'm fairly certain it's because I'm not a sociopath, that I believe this simple fact is in-and-of-itself enough to merit the programs' funding, and that the majority of tax-paying Americans believe that a fed, thriving child is better than one who is starving to death in one of the most prosperous countries on Earth, a country that wastes nearly 40 percent of its food.

Completely unmerited claims about academic performance aside, the programs Trump is proposing to cut feed tens of millions of children every day. The School Lunch and The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program are directed toward low-performance, high-poverty schools, and feed children living in the most dire economic conditions in the country, who are often affected by multiple social factors which can further impede future successes.

So, says The White House, let's take the students facing the difficulties of single-income households, incarcerated parents, transitional and subsidized housing, and neighborhood violence, in addition to (in most cases) all the economic and social inequities that come with being a person of color, and let's tell these same kids that now they have to starve through the school day as well. Or through the whole day, as often these programs provide the single meal the child eats in 24 hours.

And where is the money going, the money we are taking out of the bellies of America's most vulnerable populations?  To "defense." To the bombs we're dropping with impunity on other children across the world. To a wall built to protect the mirage of Great America, a country that's planning to become "greater" by completely eliminating, among so many other things, programs which fund the arts, public radio, the Clean Power Act, climate research, the Great Lakes Restoration Act, affordable housing, and public transportation -- essentially placing on the chopping block the funds for our culture, humanitarian services, and environment, all in one fell swoop.

Are we watching Trump playing Let's Make a Deal? Giving us this Modest Proposal so everything else -- things that would constitute as egregious cuts but wouldn't be entering the looking glass of a full-on cultureless, militarized state -- seem more palatable later in the process?

Regardless of his reasoning, I can't help but take this as a reaffirmation that we need to stop relying on DC to do the right, or decent, or human thing. The government has long been acting as a war-mongering, for-profit corporation, and I should probably stop feel shocked about it, and start taking more localized action. Now, even before we're offered the diet version of some of these cuts.

So what can we do about this, specifically? I am not going to pretend I have the full-fledge, mass-scale answers, but I've often been accused of speaking in grand theoretical terms and providing no pragmatic solutions, so I've compiled a list of actions we can take as singular, busy, modestly-living human beings, to attempt to mitigate some of the effects of this atrocious budget.

  1.  Identify the schools in the area which will be most affected by these cuts, and contact their outreach personnel to ask what the cuts are going to look like in practicality.
    This will provide an idea of the personalized needs of every school, where they foresee the most radical decreases in funds, and which of their programs could face closure.
  2. Start an email list which gets this information on the radar of NGO's, community members, and advocates surrounding them.
    It's easy to find the contacts for local chapters of food banks, Boy/Girl Scouts, singular philanthropists, and conscious business owners to raise awareness about what the loss of funds will look like for schools in the area. People can't help if they don't know about the problem, and it is going to take many levels of grass-roots and community activism to offset some of these deficits.
  3. Contact local branches of national corporations in the area and ask for regular donations.
    After two phone calls to the local Panera, the women's shelter for which I volunteer now gets a weekly delivery of bread and bagels. Contact local corporate restaurants, especially ones which serve short-shelf-life food like Panera or Dunkin' Donuts, and ask them to pledge to a weekly or bi-weekly delivery of their excess to ease the burden on the school. And our landfills.
  4. Hold a fund-drive.
    A simple dinner, bake sale or community bowling event in which people are given the information and opportunity to donate is a way to at least raise awareness and offer communal support for a struggling school. Of course, it won't offset the school lunch budget for an entire year, but any type of funding that can help provide more substantive meals is of huge benefit.
  5. Volunteer for after-school programs.
    After-school programs feed children snacks and meals, as well as offset the economic stress of hired care, and provide much-needed tutoring and mentoring.  Volunteering or donating to these programs is a great way to relieve some of their payroll burden, and to build community and relationships with kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

I truly believe these next four years are going to be dangerous and painful for the most marginalized communities in America, and that the only option with which we are left is to become the crusaders of community-based advocacy. We do have, in each of us, the power to ease even the smallest fraction of the collective suffering, and with that power comes the responsibility to show up, and to do all we can, together.

 

Jacq Williams is a freelance writer, homesteader, and activist from Southeast Michigan. She is currently working on an advocacy project for pregnant women in prison and transitional housing, called the Inmate Birth and Infancy Project.

Has Chris Reykdal already fallen behind as a watchdog for our kids?

We discussed Chris Reykdal, Washington's newly installed State Superintendent of Public Instruction, at great length last year. His opponent in last year's election, Erin Jones, was exceptionally qualified and the first Black woman to run for statewide public office in Washington, and we instead elected Reykdal, a white male career politician.

Now, after less than two months in office, Reykdal is already falling behind.

On Friday the Eatonville Dispatch published an op-ed from Superintendent Raykdal in which he vaguely pledged to "fight for supporters of public education."

He started by highlighting Congress' effort to repeal the regulations on school accountability (emphasis is mine):

On Feb. 9, Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as our nation’s 11th secretary of education. A few hours after the confirmation, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal certain rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The rules clarify how ESSA will be implemented in regard to teacher preparation programs and how schools and districts measure success.
The Senate must now vote on the repeal. If the Senate votes in favor of the repeal, the DeVos administration will write its own rules. 

I don't expect most parents to track all the policy developments happening in our nation's capitol, but I do expect the state superintendent to keep up. The U.S. Senate voted to repeal the regulations on March 9, more than a week before this op-ed posted. 

Here's a screenshot just in case they figure it out before something posts and take it down.

 

Reykdal got one thing right: the Betsy DeVos puppeteers will write their own rules if left unchecked, and we can count on those rules to be oppressive in ways both familiar and newly alarming.

Let's hope this is Reykdal's wake-up call, and maybe a reminder that he's the one, as our elected champion for students, who's supposed to be on top of these things.

Standing Rock descends on the White House with sage and ceremony

It's true, what they say: You get used to being cold. It doesn't take all that long, either. One month on the prairie and I barely noticed I was shivering all the time in the constant sodden chill; I was used to the dull ache in my throat and eyes as my sinuses clogged and unclogged, used to never getting fully undressed, to changing one bit of clothing at a time, hiding under blankets. 

It was only fitting that the Native Nations Rise March took place on a freezing, blustery wet day in Washington DC, when just the day before the temperature had neared the seventies. It was as if the tribes who had flooded the capital en masse, arriving by bus and carpooled ride, by plane and train and truck, had dragged the wind-whipped prairie to the Capital with them, perhaps to accentuate the profundity and raw elemental nature of the struggle they faced at Standing Rock. The cold has never deterred the resilience of the First Nations people to fight for the Earth, and it did not this day in Washington, either.

Over 5,000 Native Americans and their allies showed up to walk down the road to the white house, beating drums and dancing and burning bundles of sage. The air was filled with smoke, and with song, prayer, and chants:

"You can't drink oil; keep it in the soil!" 

"We exist! We resist! We rise!" 

And of course, always, "Mni Wiconi!" Water is life.

As we made our way to the National Mall, I glanced up at the suited men and women peering out the windows of the high rises, small groups of them gathered to watch the long train of people march by with our banners and drums and the puppet of the black snake, which weaved through the crowd held aloft on several sticks. I wondered what the people up in those windows were thinking, and if they always stared like that when there was a demonstration taking place, or if there was something special about this one. Something exotic and otherized in the bright colors and burning bundles of herbs.

The way they stood, gawking, made me think about how this country has always treated Native Americans: fetishizing their clothing, culture and looks, bestowing the pigeon-holing archetypes of the "Noble Savage," and at the same time stripping their basic human dignities and long-written land treaties, subjecting them to literally hundreds of years of systematic environmental racism. 

Photo by Jacq Williams.

I thought about how this march, the people who braved the prairie winter, this whole long and harrowing fight, was about violently forcing Native Americans to accept something that was deemed too dangerous for white people. I can't stop coming back to that, through all of this.

We marched. 

We marched to Trump Tower, where on the front lawn the Sioux erected a teepee, and small groups of women danced, while the men drummed and prayed as they symbolically reclaimed the stolen land of their people. I stood on a bench to see protectors snaking around blocks in either directions, dozens of tribes represented, thousands of flushed and sniffling faces who came streaming into the streets from the warm comfort of their lives to stand up for the sacred. Just as they had done at Standing Rock.

I was starting to run into more and more people I knew from camp, people we fed in the kitchen, people who taught me songs and told me secrets, and who came into our yurt at night looking to swap histories. I hugged and laughed with people I was desperate to see again, children and the women who herded them down the slippery hills at camp, the head of security, and the people who built the school among them. I knew half of them had ridden buses for days to be here. Their faces made me ache to be back on the prairie, where we interacted in such an unadulterated and archaic way, never buried in our phones or dogged down by the necessity of exchanging dollars with one another. We learned more about each other than best friends know, having to be present and integral in one another's lives from the very beginning. Having no other choice but to work together. 

We marched on, to the front gates of the White House, where I doubted the President cared enough to glance out of the window, had he been there at all.

It's a strange feeling, resisting in such a forthright and visual way, fighting for what you know is your life and the lives of your children's children, and knowing the lawmakers and lobbyists of this country have the option to just look away. The people in power, and the people at home, who don't visit news sources which would even cover something like this march, can still doze in comfort while we scream in the face of willful ignorance. 

Photo by Jacq Williams.

The Water Protectors gathered at the White House fence, chanted and held banners, and were told to get off of the sidewalk by the police and secret service, over and over again. We took pictures and burned more sage, and some people called out to the police: "Join us! Your grandchildren need clean water, too!" They were met with the blank stares of unabashed indifference. To them we were merely a possible security threat, to be assessed, addressed, dismissed.

My small group broke off and made it to the rally on the lawn. We hung around the outskirts, and were glad we did, as Dave Archambault's voice was the one we soon heard over the surrounding speakers. DAPL Dave, as he is called, is the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and it is widely believed that he made a deal with Energy Transfer Partners and the BIA to dismantle the camps—even those on the private property of Ladonna Allard—and essentially smooth the way for the pipeline's completion. 

Those who didn't know about this cheered him as his spoke his message of unity. Those who did, like Ladonna's daughter, Prairie, stood in the back and shouted their discontent. I felt the splintering, just like I had at camp, of the reality of the situation versus the perception. 

The reality, I have come to understand, is that we were never going to stop a 3 billion dollar pipeline from being completed. Not in a capitalist society which places the monetary value of commodity over life in all its forms. We were there operating under the perception, the hopeful belief, that the will of millions of Americans and the thousands of people who showed up to represent them, were enough to convince the world that the sanctity of our Native Tribes— their sacred land and their drinking water—are of more value than another faulty pipeline meant to carry oil which wouldn't even be used for American consumption. Essentially, that water/life was more important than oil/money. 

We were wrong. Despite the best of our efforts, the black snake has been built and will carry highly volatile fracked oil as early as next week.

But that doesn't mean that it was futile to gather on the prairie or flood the streets of Washington. All else aside, I don't know one person who returned home from the protest in North Dakota without a profound sense of purpose and empowerment, and a deeper understanding of the intersectionality of our resistance. Knowing, down to our marrow, that while we shout for the water we are also shouting for racial equality, environmental justice, and the reconfiguring of an economic system which keeps defense contractors buying islands while children starve on our own soil. 

Gathering like this, making camp and forming community in the face of capitalist greed, flooding the streets of Washington in winter, are in themselves acts of profound defiance. Going back to our own lives with the seeds we took from these gatherings, and planting, cultivating, and redistributing the crop amongst ourselves— that is an act of revolution. To reconfigure a pyramid-shaped system which has forever only benefitted the top, we need people on the ground who have already chosen to live a different way, who are willing to drop everything to come together in rejection of this wildly inequitable structure, to break down the pyramid and use the stones to build well-trodden paths from house to house. 

Standing Rock, and the Native Nations Rise March on DC, have proven that we have those people. That we are willing to brave the elements and our own self-doubt in order to return to a more harmonious, communal, sacred way of life, and that our numbers are growing. The truth is this: among the sleeping souls of complacency, there is an awakening of warriors for a new world who are ready to resist, and to re-imagine. At a moment's notice, ready to rise.

 

Jacq Williams is a freelance writer, homesteader, and activist from Southeast Michigan who spent several weeks at Sacred Stone Camp in Standing Rock in the fall and winter of 2016. She is currently working on an advocacy project for pregnant women in prison and transitional housing, called the Inmate Birth and Infancy Project.

How to Bring the Lessons of Standing Rock into the Classroom

Photo taken by Matt Halvorson on the Standing Rock Reservation in November 2016.
 

Amid the recent executive order expediting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Reservation, teachers inside and outside the community must continue to engage their students and reflect on both its impact and historical context.

The movement to protect the sacred lands of the Oceti Sakowin (the Seven Council Fires of the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota Nations) not only united a network of tribal nations and allies, but also sparked long overdue—and sometimes difficult—discussions on a multitude of complex issues, including environmental protection, tribal sovereignty, racial oppression, privilege, and access to power.

While the Sacred Stone Camp has been disbanded, teachers can still engage students in this dialogue and keep this issue—and the history of Native people and lands—in the national consciousness. Below are some resources and suggestions for teachers to leverage now:

Photo taken by Matt Halvorson on the Standing Rock Reservation in November 2016.

Photo taken by Matt Halvorson on the Standing Rock Reservation in November 2016.

  1. Get the facts. Discover the historical context of the events leading to Standing Rock with this brief primer from KGW-TV in Portland and a more detailed version from NYC Stands with Standing Rock titled the #StandingRockSyllabus.
  2. Understand firsthand perspectives. Read an account of the protests from Robert Cook, who leads Teach For America’s Native Alliance Initiative. Also be sure to visit an inspiring piece from Tariq Brownotter, a senior at McLaughlin High School in South Dakota who ran more than 500 miles from South Dakota to Washington, D.C., as part of a Dakota Access Pipeline Awareness run. The Washington Post and National Geographic have more voices from the Sacred Stone camp. (RUFS Note: read more about Matt Halvorson's experience at Standing Rock on the Rise Up For Students blog)
  3. Create a powerful lesson. Several news organizations have put together downloadable lesson plans that cover the conflict from a variety of viewpoints in both print and video, including National Geographic, The New York Times (here and here), and KQED-TV, San Francisco’s PBS affiliate. Aside from news outlets, check out this page from Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which offers ways for educators to make Standing Rock accessible to students across a range of subjects.
  4. Teach stories of youth activism. You can also view a collection of resources from The Choices Program, which focuses on youth activists’ role in this and other social movements.
  5. Stay engaged. Learn more about organizations advocating for the rights of Native communities:

 

An original version of this post originally appeared on TeacherPop. Reposted with permission.

Brought to you by Teach For America, TeacherPop provides real talk, tips, and activities that teachers can use in the classroom. Writers offer advice for all of the challenges new teachers face, sharing everything from difficult reflections on their darkest days to quick tips for sprucing up their classrooms and their lives.

Yesterday Trump honored the racist Bryan Adams lookalike Obama tried to leave behind

Donald Trump laid a wreath on the grave of former President Andrew Jackson yesterday on what would have been Jackson's 250th birthday.

It turns out Trump is the latest in a long line of presidents who have paid homage to Jackson. Reagan, Lyndon Johnson and Teddy Roosevelt, among others, all visited Jackson's home and adorned their predecessor's grave while in office.

But why the persistent interest in Old Hickory? (Evidently that was Jackson's nickname, by the way -- Old Hickory. As a one-time ballplayer, I'm jealous. Anybody called Old Hickory could probably hit like the dickens.)

Well, for one thing, he was a white man in America, which means that his thoughts, words and deeds were and continue to be considered inherently more important and more valuable than those of most people around him.

Further, like many of his similarly heralded colleagues, Jackson was a sanctimonious slaveowner who was directly responsible for the murder of many, many indigenous people, and for the forced relocation of many more. He rests on the same prickly laurels as Washington and Jefferson and our other most star-spangled heroes.

Even Barack Obama paid Jackson some (un)love. Barry made an effort during his time in the Oval Office to have Jackson's likeness removed from the $20 bill, paying his subtle respect to Jackson through the "any publicity is good publicity" avenue. I'm told that effort fell short, but I haven't seen a bill the size of Jackson's in years now.

It should probably be no surprise that Jackson -- and his views on race -- remain relevant. Our country has shown time and again that oppression and violence against people who aren't white men is enough to keep you celebrated for centuries. But in Jackson's case, there may be more to the story -- a conspiracy worthy of Doc Brown's DeLorean.

I don't believe any of these presidents are visiting the grave of Andrew Jackson. They are visiting Andrew Jackson himself.

Don't believe me?

Then how did Andrew Jackson release a piano-pop album as "Bryan Adams" more than 200 years after his "death?"

I don't know.

What I do know is that Wikipedia credits "Bryan Adams" with the following on Reckless

Bryan Adams – lead vocals, guitars, piano, harmonica, hand claps, foot stomping

"Hand claps, foot stomping." That's very weird... just like everything I've written here. Coincidence? Bryan Adams thinks so.

Anyway, you know what else is weird? It's hard to look at who our country chooses to honor and who it chooses to forget (for instance, honoring Jackson on the $20 bill and forgetting every person of color and most women) without thinking we are intentionally working to maintain the racial hierarchy Trump is being so honest about.

We can't forget that Andrew Jackson is the founding legacy of the Democratic Party, but we can stop treasuring his memory.

We shouldn't forget the legacy of oppression and destruction left by Old Hickory and his white-power brethren, but until we stop considering them emblems of patriotic morality, I fear we are doomed to perpetuate the shadows of our past.

It's time to be brave enough to build a future that doesn't build on the oppressive values of its founders. It's time to recognize new standard-bearers and hold them to a higher moral standard, as Reckless as that might seem.

And it's time to take Bryan Adams off the $20 bill.

Saturday is Enrollment Day at Tacoma's Destiny Middle School

Destiny Middle School will be enrolling current 5th, 6th and 7th graders from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 18 at its third annual Enrollment Day. Interested parents, students and community members are invited to visit Destiny, part of the Green Dot network of charter schools, at 1301 E. 34th St. in Tacoma, Wash.

Washington State's charter schools are showing success closing opportunity gaps created by our traditional public school system, and Destiny may be the cream of the crop. It's worth checking out.

Students can be fully registered at the event. Food and kids' activities will be provided.

Check out the event page on Facebook for more info.

Green Dot Destiny Middle School in Tacoma, Wash.

Green Dot Destiny Middle School in Tacoma, Wash.

Signs of Hope in South Seattle

I wrote earlier this month about the many different positive messages people have posted in their yards in my neighborhood, and how there's some power in these quiet, steady displays of love.

I accidentally drove down a side street off McClellan a couple days ago and saw the same style of Black Lives Matter sign in almost every yard. By the end of the block, I was choked up. Granted, I'm pretty easily weepy these days, but still, it made me wonder: what if the whole city looked like that? I bet that's what a sanctuary city would really look like.

Let's unpack SPS Board Director Rick Burke's understanding of integration

We have a dysfunctional school board in Seattle, and that has been fully on display in discussions about opening a new elementary school in North Seattle's Cedar Park neighborhood.

The north side of Seattle is an overall whiter and more affluent community than the south end, but most Cedar Park residents are people of color and, it so happens, average a lower income than folks in the surrounding neighborhoods.

A group of north-end parents saw a school comprised almost entirely of students from these under-served demographics as doomed to low achievement. They formed a coalition and wrote a letter that eventually found its way to the school board suggesting Cedar Park Elementary open as an option school instead of a neighborhood school.

The board liked this idea.

"I think we have an opportunity to shine here," said board VP Leslie Harris during the Nov. 16 board meeting, "and to make lemonade out of what potentially was a big lemon in setting up a ghetto school."

“To open Cedar Park as an attendance-area school with potential of high concentration of disadvantaged learners feels like a disservice to the community," Dir. Rick Burke said during the same meeting (in the video at 1:53:00), "but combining the community demographics with a natural tendency of an option school to draw in more affluent families provides a natural balance to demographics.”

Burke is inferring here that a school needs "more affluent families" (code for "more white families," whether he is conscious of that or not) to make a school worth investing in. Referring to a school without those affluent families as "a disservice to the community" shows that on some level, Burke knows the district won't be able to adequately educate the kids in Cedar Park.

SPS has the fifth-worst opportunity gap in the nation and a documented history of disproportionate discipline of students of color. If the district opens a new school made up entirely of those pesky demographics, the entire board knows they will fail to give those kids an excellent education. "Balancing demographics" helps balance overall test scores and overall outcomes. It allows the board and the district to continue to perpetuate opportunity gaps along racial and socioeconomic lines without doing so in a glaringly obvious way. It allows them to avoid addressing the systemic problems within the district that create these gaps in the first place.

Turning Cedar Park into an option school displaces the local community as well, which means this plan represents a well-disguised form of gentrification. Option schools are modern-day "white flight schools." This is will happen with Cedar Park as it has happened elsewhere.

Burke and Harris show that they know this, but again, they do it very subtly. "Disadvantaged learners" is code for "students of color." Knowing that creating an option school would even out those demographics shows an understanding that it would bring gentrification. It's just that they see that as a good thing.

School integration is a tricky issue, in no small part because it's trying to buck the reality of our segregated lives and our segregated society, but it's one of the only initiatives that has truly helped eliminate opportunity gaps.

Some argue, without using these exact words, that the white/affluent kids are so "advantaged" that they'll elevate the class around them, essentially -- that "advantaged learners" will rub off on the poor, unfortunate souls around them.

That's an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Genuine diversity in a school allows more strengths and learning styles to flourish. There is inherent value in diversity and differing perspectives.

And as far as schools go, the numbers are clear: a more white/affluent student body means better teachers and teacher retention, stronger external funding, stronger principals and leadership -- stronger privilege, essentially. Through integration, that privilege is spread out a bit more and is made available to more students of color, giving them easier access to wealthier PTAs, to more privileged teams and organizations and people.

It's not that sitting next to a white kid makes a kid of color smarter. It's that they actually get access to higher-quality elements of the inequitable system.

Historically, however, white families and families of privilege have resisted integration. The only way to actually solve this problem has been to put together policy, pass potentially controversial legislation even in the face of pushback, and do the hard work of changing hearts and minds of people with privilege.

Change is scary. We of privilege don't tend to give up our privilege voluntarily. We push back against threats to the status quo, even if we don't fully realize or articulate what we are doing or why. For our inequitable systems to change, we have to be prepared to make and stand by unpopular decisions, or we need to be honest with ourselves and know that we are failing the students who most need a voice.

Please help our kids get the school board leadership they deserve

I'd like to point your attention toward the dysfunction of the Seattle School Board. Many of the directors on the board have consistently shown a troubling lack of racial awareness, and it's been having a seriously negative impact on the kids in our district for many years.

Dir. Leslie Harris described a Cedar Park school full of low-income students of color as "a ghetto school."

It's time for things to change.

I wrote a blog post Sunday about Dir. Leslie Harris, the recently appointed board vice president who used the term "ghetto school" during a board meeting last November. It sparked a particularly inspiring response from one former principal.

This earlier post also gives some more background on the problematic dynamics on the board:

 

A grassroots coalition just stopped the Seattle School Board from adding $11 million to the deficit

 

These are just a couple examples, of course. I'll also be writing this week about Dir. Rick Burke's troubling take on integration and about more racially sleepy comments from Dir. Harris.

Seattle Public Schools has documented problems with disproportionate discipline of Black students, and the district is home to the fifth-worst opportunity gap in the nation. These are more than just politically incorrect slips of the tongue from a well-intentioned board of directors. Each microagression and each offensive phrase represents the pattern of thinking that still guides our schools. 

The West Coast is leading the resistance against the Trump-led Republicans, and Washington State has been at the forefront of that movement in a very real way. On a local level, however, we still have elected officials making oppressive decisions -- especially when it comes to education. It's time that our local politics better reflect our bold commitment to equity.

If you have more stories illustrating our problematic school board in Seattle -- and I'm sure you do -- please share them with me. We need the voters in our city to know who is representing their kids and their schools.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for everything you're doing to create better schools and a better world for our kids. They need us to rise up now more than ever.

Seattle School Board VP Harris should resign after using term 'ghetto school'

Leslie Harris, vice president of the Seattle School Board representing District VI, used the term "ghetto school" during a board meeting last fall. It's yet another example of the board's problematic lack of racial awareness (aside from District V's Stephan Blanford, who is all alone out there).

During the board meeting on Nov. 16, 2016, the directors were discussing the new elementary school set to open in the Cedar Park neighborhood, a pocket of racial diversity on Seattle's north end that also happens to be home to many low-income families.

A north-end parent group had written a letter expressing concerns about Cedar Park's proposed boundaries, suggesting it be an option school as opposed to a neighborhood-boundary school to avoid segregating a high concentration of low-income students and students of color from the otherwise-mostly-white neighboring schools.

The board was in the process of moving Cedar Park toward an option school designation, and Leslie Harris started patting herself and the board on the back during the Nov. 16 meeting:

"I think we have an opportunity to shine here, and to make lemonade out of what potentially was a big lemon in setting up a ghetto school," Harris said. "And that's just not who we are. And I think we can do just so much better."

Watch here for yourself (right around 1:56:30):

Lots of problems here. First, come step foot inside Emerson Elementary School, our neighborhood school. The Seattle School Board "does" ghetto schools, Ms. Harris. That's exactly who you are.

Second, the use of the term "ghetto school" itself is problematic, as is the presumption that those schools are a past-tense issue when many of us are still living their reality.

Keep watching and at 2:00:30, Dedy Fauntleroy, the planning principal for Cedar Park Elementary School, addresses the board:

"I want to make a small comment first," Fauntleroy says. "The use of the term 'ghetto school': not okay. Please." (You can hear someone off-camera saying, "Thank you, thank you.")

Then that was it, I guess -- until retired SPS principal Ricky Malone took the mic two months later during the Jan. 18, 2017 board meeting. She basically hands the board their asses, tells Leslie Harris to resign, and storms off in an appropriate huff. Soak it all in here at 1:24:30:

"The only good thing you can do about a ghetto school is to make sure they don't exist. Not by tearing them down or by closing them, but by giving them the money and resources they need to make them disappear if they do exist.
I need the definition of what a ghetto school is in Seattle. I also need to know where these ghetto schools are as soon as possible, since next month is open enrollment, and I'm sure our parents would like to know.
One last thing: if a school is ghetto, does that mean the children are ghetto? Does that mean the staff is ghetto?
I'm so angry about this whole ghetto thing, when a school board member in an open public school board meeting is saying, 'Phew, we stopped another ghetto school from opening! She said this when she found out Cedar Park would be a whatever option school, as well as saying 'We took lemons and made lemonade!'
Not one of you said anything. My God, what is she saying behind closed doors? And what are the rest of you allowing her to say? It seems she even gets rewarded for it by becoming the vice president at the next board meeting."
 

Malone ends by saying, "You, Ms. Harris, should resign!"

I agree. Leslie Harris should absolutely resign from the board.

We cannot have that kind of thinking governing our schools. Leslie Harris is not fit to serve our most vulnerable students. This is not a political-correctness slip-up. It's a demonstration of her way of thinking.

Further, Harris hasn't publicly apologized or adequately addressed her use of the term "ghetto school."

And as Malone pointed out, only Stephan Blanford on the board ever speaks up about racially charged craters like this. In this case, around the 2:05 mark after Malone's comments, Blanford says, "I look at Ricky Malone as someone who is, like I said, unapologetic, who lives her values every day. So I support Ricky Malone."

The other six directors would have been perfectly happy to let that offense blow past unnoticed, never to be spoken of again. We can't abide that kind of leadership either, because it's not leadership. It's just presence. The kids being failed by this district need more than just a body in a seat.

Instead, most of our school board is doing a job that could be done as well by six cardboard cutouts and six tape recorders. Just press play. Nobody on that board, unfortunately, is listening to Dir. Blanford anyway, which is too bad, because he's the only one who seems to be listening to and working on behalf of our low-income families and families of color in any kind of honest, meaningful way.

Seattle's public schools are profoundly inequitable. That needs to change. We're fooling ourselves if we expect this group of people, this board of directors, to be part of the solution. That needs to change, too.

 

(See also: Let's unpack SPS Board Director Rick Burke's understanding of integration)

Hate has no home in the 98118

I'm back home again in Rainier Beach after a whirlwind six-day trip to and from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, and I'm filled this week by appreciation for my neighborhood.

The 98118 zip code is known to be "the most diverse zip code in the nation," and that diversity is reflected in the messages on the yard signs decorating the blocks.

In just driving a few minutes around our neighborhood with my sons, we found more signs demanding social justice and declaring solidarity than we had time to photograph. Here are just a few:

"Black Lives Matter"
"Silence = More Deaths"
"Stop profiling Muslims."
"Refugees are welcome here."
"No matter where you're from, we're glad you're our neighbor."
"Here we believe love is love, no human is illegal, Black lives matter, science is real, women's rights are human rights, water is life, kindness is everything."

 

These are bold words sending powerful messages at a time when we need them most. What messages are you sending?

What messages are you seeing around you? Do you have photos to share?

 

#BlackLivesMatter
#NoDAPL
#WaterIsLife
#ScienceIsReal
#NoMuslimBan

With largest #NoDAPL camps evacuated, Standing Rock picks up the pieces

I drove back to the #NoDAPL camps at Standing Rock this week.

The Army Corps of Engineers in conjunction with Morton County Law Enforcement issued a deadline of 2 pm Wednesday (Feb. 22) to clear the Oceti Oyate camp (formerly Oceti Sakowin), which sits on contested land, as well as Rosebud camp and part of Sacred Stone, both of which are (were?) on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation but below the flood plane.

I wanted to be present for the deadline, to do what I could to help, and right at 2 p.m. I found myself in the Oceti camp in a pickup truck trying to find two kids who we’d been told needed to get out (and they did).

Two water protectors look out over the evacuated Oceti Oyate camp (formerly Oceti Sakowin) as the 2 p.m. eviction deadline ticks past on Feb. 22, 2016. Photo by Matt Halvorson.

Two water protectors look out over the evacuated Oceti Oyate camp (formerly Oceti Sakowin) as the 2 p.m. eviction deadline ticks past on Feb. 22, 2016. Photo by Matt Halvorson.

 

The strange thing, though, was that the police were not particularly aggressive in clearing out the camp. They arrested either nine or 10 people Wednesday, depending on which report you read, and I’m told that something like 50 more were arrested yesterday when the police came back through and fully cleared the camps.

The police tried to intimidate and definitely inflicted some physical injury, but all in all, the eviction was surprisingly peaceful. It only takes one police officer responding with too much force too quickly, or one person reacting to strongly to seeing his grandmother being handled by the police for violence to erupt and turn a situation like this into a disaster.

Instead, it was peaceful-ish, as policing goes. Or if peaceful isn’t the right word, well, nobody died. The police were not startlingly violent toward the water protectors who chose to stay in camp and pray until the end, which is what I was afraid of. But then, the #NoDAPL movement has never been characterized by fatal violence.

Set aside for a moment the grotesque images of water cannons, rubber bullets and explosives used by police in riot gear in Standing Rock.

During the protests in Ferguson of the past few years, militarized police frequently shot real bullets at Black Lives Matter protesters and occasionally killed them. Even when the PR risk should have steadied their trigger fingers, fatalities were commonplace. On the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s murder, for example, St. Louis Police shot and killed another young black man during that night’s protest.

In Standing Rock, on the other hand, through more than 10 months of steady demonstrations and consistent police confrontation, not one water protector was killed. The police inflicted serious injuries and committed atrocities, but everyone survived.

This has been on my mind for months but hasn’t been something I’ve known how to talk about, partly because I was in Standing Rock bearing witness to much of the police violence that has made the news. And it was painful and traumatic and frightening. But I also made an appearance in Ferguson, and I know that the stakes were more immediate there, though no higher in the long run.

I don't know what it means. Our government and law enforcement certainly have a deep and storied history of killing indigenous people. They just haven't done that in Standing Rock yet, even as they're doing it elsewhere. Maybe it just means that our oppression of people of color has been tailored to each specific community.

Whatever the case, just as happened on Dec. 4 last year when the Army Corps under the Obama administration denied the easement needed for Energy Transfer Partners to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline, this is a time of change and transition for the #NoDAPL camps. Roughly 600 people remained in the camps from mid-December through mid-February, and only a handful of reinforcements arrived this week.

Now many of them are heading home. Many more are staying and continuing the fight on the ground in North Dakota, and a group of committed indigenous activists have promised to continue finding new sites for prayer camps to continue if needed. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who owns the Sacred Stone land and founded the original camp last April, has vowed to maintain a community on her own land as well, come figurative hell or literal high water.

And everyone who is leaving is leaving profoundly changed, it seems, carrying with them a sense of invigorated spirituality and an empowered sense of capability and responsibility to stand up more fiercely than ever to injustice.

Perhaps my greatest takeaway has been the interconnectedness of movements that had remained, until now, disparate. The issues being raised by #NoDAPL water protectors, indigenous rights advocates, environmental activists, Black Lives Matter protesters, immigrant rights groups, education advocates, workers' rights groups and countless others are all symptoms of the same disease, branches of a tree whose trunk contains the sickness of capitalist greed, colonial entitlement and systemic inequity.

I see the possibility for enormous breakthroughs as our passions are shown more clearly to have a common enemy, and as it becomes harder to ignore that our own liberation is dependent on our neighbor’s.

We’re all in this together — even the police officers and DAPL employees who are following orders in order to maintain an income they’re afraid to lose. Even Trump and everyone who voted for him. We are protecting this water for everyone. We are shouting for everyone’s sake that Black Lives Matter -- not just for the Black men and women who face the greatest immediate risk -- because no life is truly valued by a society that declares some expendable. We are demanding equitable access to high-quality public education because its absence leaves a cavity in our country and our communities.

No matter what you hear in the mainstream media, the #NoDAPL movement isn’t ending. It’s just shifting, dispersing, expanding. Water falls from the sky as millions of individual drops, but those beads of water don’t remain separate. They can’t help but combine, to join together as they touch, and in doing so, to become a roaring, powerful body of water.

We, too, seem like millions of individuals, but we come from the same source, whatever that is. We are intrinsically connected. And when we act out those connections, they deepen, and we awaken the potential of our unified power to overwhelm the hate and division that plagues us now.

Charter schools have been upheld in Washington courts yet again

Attorney Rob McKenna, who represented intervening charter school parents and families in the recently settled case, speaks alongside a group of charter school students and parents in January. (Photo by Matt Halvorson)

Hey, great news! The charter school lawsuit is over! A judge upheld the law as constitutional.

It's time to celebrate and put all this hyper-political nonsense behind us. It's time to move forward, building a network of great schools with the ability to operate outside the purview of our systemically racist, intentionally colonial public school system.

Wait... didn't we already do this?

Yes.

First, the details, courtesy of Paige Cornwell of the Seattle Times:

A King County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Washington’s charter-school law didn’t demonstrate that charter schools are unconstitutional.
Friday’s ruling is part of an ongoing legal battle over the constitutionality of Washington’s charter-school law. The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of parents, educators and civic groups.
Coalition members haven’t decided whether they’ll appeal yet, said Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association.
The state’s eight charter schools are public schools, open to any student, but they are run by private organizations. About 1,600 students attend charter schools in the state, according to the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

"With [this] decision, students can return their focus to learning, and parents can rest easy knowing their kids’ schools can continue to provide their kids with the quality public education they deserve," said said Tom Franta, CEO of WA Charters.

But can they?

After all, Rich Wood and the teachers union "haven't decided whether they'll appeal yet." They haven't decided yet whether they will continue this specific version of their dogged defense of the status quo. They haven't decided yet whether they will needlessly repeat history for a third time.

"We face a group of politically motivated and powerful organizations who want to keep us in court and attempt to make our future uncertain," said DFER's Shirline Wilson at a press conference last month prior to the final hearing. "In the case of El Centro vs. Washington, I want you to understand that this is purely an attempt to shutter these effective public schools and remove our choices for gap-closing education. We refuse to be intimidated, and we refuse to stand down."

I like to think maybe the WEA and its cronies might give up this costly, distracting fight against its own past and future, but history tells us this lawsuit isn't over.

At least we can rest assured, based on that same history, that school choice won't go down without a fight in Washington.

"We will not be silenced by lobbying groups that value politics over truly improving public education outcomes," Wilson said.

And for now, we get to celebrate again, and breathe a rare sigh of relief. Whatever the politics suggest, whatever the status quo would have you believe, public school choice is an important civil rights issue, and it won the day again in Washington. Thank goodness for some good news.

B.F. Day Elementary proudly supports its most targeted students

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I spoke today to the fourth-graders at B.F. Day Elementary School in Seattle about my experiences at Standing Rock and about what continues to happen there.

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When I was their age, I was in Fargo, North Dakota, learning our state's "history," which seemed to only be about 100 years deep.  I learned very little meaningful information about the area's indigenous people, and I was taught that our country's oppressive days of breaking treaties were a thing of the past -- and that racism and inequality were fixed by the total and peaceful success of the Civil Rights Movement.

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It was easy to know who I was in those history lessons. I was a white ally, sneaking people through the Underground Railroad, standing up against the Native genocide, hiding Jewish refugees in my attic, sitting at lunch counters and marching on Washington. I was a rebel!

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It's easy to imagine having been brave in retrospect. It's easy to assume you'd have responded to the call, forgetting how many people stayed home and stayed silent as the atrocities were carried out.

Its easy to forget, though, that real life is more uncertain. It's scarier. To be a rebel in reality, to stand openly and fully with the oppressed, is to put yourself at considerable risk.

Yet this is no time to shrink from this challenge. Life in our oppressive society demands that we be bold or that we be part of the problem. That means we must -- we must! -- truly put ourselves out on a limb in real time, in real life, on behalf of our brothers and sisters who don't have the privilege to ignore this particular fight.

It means we have to think critically and see through the mirages of justification. It has to be within us to rebuke the many reasons people find to side with the oppressor, to find fault in people crying for equality.

It's easy to forget that there have been "reasons" people have let their morals slide throughout history -- all based in fear -- just as there are "reasons" now that North Dakotans see the #NoDAPL movement as a threat to their safety and see oil as an essential part of their economy and statewide identity. Just as people find "reasons" to disagree with #BlackLivesMatter protests and with trans folks who say they'd like a safe bathroom. Just as you have work tomorrow and bills to keep up with and kids to drive to school and a whole life to maintain.

There will always be reasons to stay home, reasons to excuse this particular form of persecution and oppression at this particular moment in history. But those reasons never stand the test of time and perspective.

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And that leads us to an uncomfortable truth: if we're not doing anything, we're complicit. We're siding with the oppressor.

Nobody is coming to save us. It's up to us. We have to find a way to make an impact now -- all of us -- or it won't happen.

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Staff and students at B.F. Day Elementary in Seattle put signs in front of their school making clear what they believe, making clear what they will and won't tolerate. 

There could have been plenty of reasons for the school to keep quiet, to want to avoid "seeming political" or "taking sides" or "ruffling feathers." 

Instead, they saw through the excuses and chose love, and look at the result:  students and families who are targets of extreme prejudice and potential violence right now are being told in so many words that they are loved, that they are part of a community that will stand up with them and stand up for them. 

Thanks, B.F. Day, for doing your part in this critical, stupefying time and being an example for all of us. 

Subtle messages of solidarity can make all the difference

Photo by Louie Opatz.

Photo by Louie Opatz.

 "At Leschi we stand with our Muslim & immigrant families"

This is such a simple sign and such a simple idea. We support the students who go to our school, and we support their families. 

But these days, the seemingly simple can make all the difference. In a time when politics have lost all reason, we are forced to choose: do I actively speak out and act out against hate and oppression? Or do I support it?

Those are, unfortunately, the only two choices. They always have been, in fact. We now have the Republican Bloc to thank for making that reality more tangible and that message easier to communicate.

I'm proud of how consistently and courageously Seattle as a whole has come together and put its foot down. I'm proud of Leschi Elementary for this little sign. Thank you for standing up for all of your students when they need you most.

A grassroots coalition just stopped the Seattle School Board from adding $11 million to the deficit

The dynamics of the Seattle School Board perfectly captured in one photo: the four white people are smiling as the three people of color look less thrilled.

 

A truly grassroots coalition of parents and community leaders swooped in last week to stop the most recent example of dysfunction on the Seattle School Board threatening to fortify and perpetuate inequity in the district.

With Seattle Public Schools already facing a $74 million budget shortfall, and with many district schools in dire need of more teachers and support staff, the board’s chronic commitment to inequity was on full display last week as it prepared to allocate $11 million for new textbooks.

On Saturday, Jan. 21, Erin Okuno, executive director of the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC), learned about the board’s proposed expenditure and sent an email to a group of friends and colleagues. By Tuesday, when the vote to approve was scheduled, her letter to the board and district staff (below) had signatures from 27 concerned stakeholders.

To: Seattle School Board Directors and Leadership Staff
We are asking you to defer approving and purchasing English Language Arts Curriculum. Educators need to be prioritized over books – Educators Not Books. Purchasing $5-million in new curriculum means money will be taken from elsewhere. Students will bear the burden if new curriculum is purchased; adding another $5-million to the already devastating deficit will mean students of color will see more loss of educators in their schools.
We recognize curriculum hasn’t been purchased in 20-years — this is not the year to make such a hefty investment. The investment made will be on the backs of students who will benefit more from stable relationships with educators than from new books.
The board and school district has publicly said they will prioritize and protect educators in this budgeting process. Purchasing curriculum is counter to this public commitment. Our message is simple: Educators before books.

The Seattle School Board has been dysfunctional for many years. It is currently controlled by a four-member white majority whose common thread seems to be a shocking willingness to articulate their basic ignorance for issues of racial and socio-economic inequity in our schools.

To be clear, much of this budget shortfall will evaporate as soon as the legislature passes its funding package and closes the levy cliff, whether temporarily or forever, so there is some understanding that this $74-million issue won’t truly mean carving $74 million out of the existing budget.

But at the same time, the board still has to balance the books. They still have to pass a budget. And many schools in the district, especially on the south end, are staggeringly under-resourced. Emerson Elementary, as just one example, is running two long-term substitute teachers out there every day in two different classes all year this year. This textbook gambit was just the most recent case study in the board’s oblivion to the racial and socio-economic implications of their decisions and positions.

Rick Burke, District II School Board rep, is passionate about math textbooks.

Rick Burke, who represents north-end District II, ran on a “better textbooks and curriculum” platform. In fact, first on Burke’s list of his “educational passions” is “providing explicit, effective instructional materials for our classrooms. Instructional materials are the shared communication tool for students, educators, families, and student supports. Good ones are an asset, ineffective ones slow down learning and take more time from already-busy teachers.”

Jill Geary (District III) articulated a similar concern that teachers are spending evening and weekend hours preparing lesson plans, thinking this math expenditure would lessen that burden. Maybe it would, to some extent, but teachers have to differentiate their instruction anyway, so a new textbook does not take the place of preparation.

This is how much of the board dysfunction plays out. Board President Sue Peters (District IV) and Vice President Leslie Harris (District VI), along with Burke and Geary, form an all-white, all-un-woke voting bloc, and so naturally they all agreed on this particular issue.

Stephan Blanford, District V school board rep, must wish he was't so alone on this crazy board.

Betty Patu, who’s my rep in District VII, and at-large member Scott Pinkham seem to be swing votes, so they’re not fully part of the bloc, but they’re not reliably there for us either.

Stephan Blanford (District V) is the only consistently bold voice for equity we have on the board, and in the days leading up to the Jan. 24 vote, he had heard from the Bloc in no uncertain terms that, despite his vocal opposition, he would be outvoted and the textbooks would be purchased. This seemed doomed to be another 6-1 board vote serving evidence of his perpetual solo mission.

Instead, this particular story has a less-lopsided ending. After hearing from Okuno and company, the board temporarily changed directions. They came to a consensus to put the curriculum on the buyback list, meaning when they get money back from the legislature, it will be one of the top things to spend on at that time. That’s reasonable.

But the board also quietly showed they were willing to sacrifice staff for these math textbooks without ever quite owning up to it. Had they bought this curriculum, they would have had to displace staff.

The board indicated they would probably be able to bring those teachers back in the fall. But if you’re a first-year teacher who has worked hard, you’re about to get a notice telling you you’re on the chopping block — that you might not have a position to return to, no matter how hard you’ve worked, no matter how successful you’ve been. Are you going to stay and wait for that maybe, or are you going to go down to a district like Highline and get a job under stronger leadership and a functional board of directors?

That type of ripple effect multiplies the negative effects of our board’s oblivious decisions. Each individual vote has its own ramifications, but collectively it also builds a district-wide culture of inequity.

Seattle Public Schools are extremely segregated racially and are producing one of the country’s largest opportunity gaps along racial and socioeconomic lines. Letting this kind of leadership guide our schools is what dug this hole and created these gaps to begin with. Letting it continue is to openly fail to represent the kids who most need a voice in their corner.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Erin Okuno and everyone who joined her to swoop in from their regular life and intervene on this small issue. Like with everything else, we can’t count on anyone else to take these bold actions. If our kids are going to have better schools, it’s up to us to make that happen.

Hawthorne PTA resists the Trump Flu with loving inclusion

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There has been some kind of Trump Flu bug going around Seattle — one that looks enough like norovirus to prompt the Department of Public Health in Seattle/King County to send a letter home to parents in the district.

This particular flu hit our house hard. If we’re all being honest with each other here, even our two dogs showed all the flu symptoms for a couple days each. I'm not saying they had the same flu necessarily, but it gives you an idea what life has been like at our house recently. I wonder if our collective consciousness might just be having an allergic reaction to these most recent injections of hate and oppositionalism.

The Trump Flu has also meant that I’ve fallen behind on a few things when it comes to education in Washington State. Even as our laughable-turned-maniacal “leader” systemically takes apart the freedoms and rights we've enjoyed pretending we still had, it turns out we’re still expected to go about our lives and send our kids to school and whatnot — even as that school system now rests so tenuously under Donald Trump’s smug thumb. But I digress.

We regular American humans are under assault right now, that’s true, but good things are still happening. Our little Northwest nook of the Empire has done itself proud so far, too, in the early going. We’re pushing as we speak to pull all Seattle funds out of Wells Fargo in support of the #NoDAPL movement. Mayor Ed Murray has declared Seattle a sanctuary city, and we’ve seen local protests and demonstrations opposing just about every single racist, menacing policy Trump has enacted.

Even many of our schools are taking bold steps to show that they stand with their most vulnerable students and families during this threatening time.

The Hawthorne Elementary PTA — or Friends of Hawthorne (FOH) — held a special topic discussion on race and equity right after the election. The meeting had been scheduled weeks before, but Trump’s victory prompted an even broader conversation.

FOH followed that up with a well-attending open house at the school, offering parents and neighbors information on how to talk about the election with children and inviting the community “to share their hopes, fears, dreams,” as FOH member and Hawthorne parent Molly Laster put it.

One parent brought in a version of the “Hate Has No Home Here” poster for the open house.

“It was cool,” Laster said, “but it didn't have ‘our’ languages — particularly Somali.” Somali is one of Hawthorne’s diverse student body’s most common home languages.

Laster found the poster’s designers online and asked if they had other versions of the poster.

“They didn’t,” Laster said, “but offered to customize one for us. The poster [now] has the most-common languages spoken at Hawthorne.”

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On the one hand, this is a relatively small gesture. But on the other hand, Hawthorne’s families know where their school stands. When asked to choose, the community has come out on the side of equity and inclusion.

Trump and his regime are exposing all of America’s hidden, unspoken inequities and tripling-down on them. We will have to be every bit as bold in our resistance as they are in their aggression. Let this be an example we can build on. We cannot be neutral in this time of injustice.

Tips from a Senator's office: How concerned citizens can best influence their legislators

Some great tips from a high-level staffer for a Senator:

There are two things that all concerned citizens should be doing all the time right now, and they're by far the most important things.

First off: You should NOT be bothering with online petitions or emailing. Those don't typically accomplish anything except to help us feel like we've "done" something when we haven't.

1. The best thing you can do to be heard and get your congressperson to pay attention is to have face-to-face time. If they have town halls, go to them. Go to their local offices. This is how the religious right, as the Tea Party, began to establish influence.

If you're in DC, try to find a way to go to an event of theirs. Go to the "mobile offices" that their staff hold periodically (all these times are located on each congressperson's website). When you go, ask questions. A lot of them. And push for answers. The louder and more vocal and present you can be at those the better.

2. But, those in-person events don't happen every day. So, the absolute most important thing that people should be doing every day is calling. You should make six calls a day: two calls each to your two Senators and your one Representative -- one call to their DC office and another to your local office.

The staffer was very clear that any sort of online contact basically gets immediately ignored, and letters pretty much get thrown in the trash (unless you have a particularly strong, emotional story -- but even then it's not worth the time it took you to craft that letter).

Calls are what all the congresspeople pay attention to. Every single day, the Senior Staff and the Senator get a report of the three most-called-about topics for that day at each of their offices (in DC and local offices), and exactly how many people said what about each of those topics. They're also sorted by zip code and area code.

She said that Republican callers generally outnumber Democrat callers 4-1, and when it's a particular issue that single-issue-voters pay attention to (like gun control, or Planned Parenthood funding, etc...), it's often closer to 11-1, and that's recently pushed Republican congressmen on the fence to vote with the Republicans. In the last eight years, Republicans have called, and Democrats haven't.

So, when you call:

A) When calling the DC office, ask for the staff member in charge of whatever you're calling about ("Hi, I'd like to speak with the staffer in charge of healthcare, please"). Local offices won't always have specific people assigned to each issue, but they might. If you get transferred to that person, awesome. If you don't, that's okay - ask for their name, and then just keep talking to whoever answered the phone. Don't leave a message (unless the office doesn't pick up at all -- then you can, but it's better to talk to the staffer who first answered than leave a message for the specific staffer in charge of your topic).

B) Give them your zip code. They won't always ask for it, but make sure you give it to them, so they can mark it down. Extra points if you live in a zip code that traditionally votes for them, since they'll want to make sure they get/keep your vote.

C) If you can make it personal, make it personal. "I voted for you in the last election and I'm worried/happy/whatever;" or "I'm a teacher, and I am appalled by Betsy DeVos;" or "as a single mother," or "as a white, middle class woman," or whatever applies to the issue.

D) Pick one or two specific things per day to focus on. Don't go down a whole list -- they're only figuring out which one or two topics to mark you down for on their lists, so focus on one or two per day. Ideally it's something that will be voted on or taken up in the next few days, but it doesn't really matter -- even if there's not a vote coming up in the next week, call anyway. It's important that they just keep getting calls.

E) Be clear on what you want. "I'm disappointed that the Senator..." or "I want to thank the Senator for their vote on..." or "I want the Senator to know that voting in _____ way is the wrong decision for our state because..." Don't leave any ambiguity.

F) They may get to know your voice and start to get sick of you. It doesn't matter. Press on. The people answering the phones generally turn over every six weeks anyway, so even if they're really sick of you, they'll be gone in six weeks.

From experience since the election: If you hate being on the phone and feel awkward (which is a lot of people) don't worry about it. There are a bunch of scripts (Indivisible has some, and there are lots of others floating around these days). After a few days of calling, it starts to feel a lot more natural. Put the six numbers in your phone (all under "P" for Politician. An example is Politician McCaskill MO, Politician McCaskill DC, Politician Blunt MO, etc., which makes it really easy to click down the list each day), make your first call, and go from there.

If, like me, you've been meaning to add elected officials' contacts to your cell phone but haven't gotten around to doing it yet, you can text your zip code to 520.200.2223. It will respond with your federal and state legislators' names and phone numbers. Then you can easily save those contacts in your phone.

 

A version of this post originally appeared as a Facebook post. Reposted with permission.