Jesse Hagopian is being displaced at Garfield High School

Well, the word around the Interwebs is that Jesse Hagopian is being squeezed out at Garfield High School.

Tracy Castro-Gill, the ethnic studies program manager for Seattle Public Schools, posted on Facebook today that “Garfield administration has chosen to displace Jesse Hagopian.”

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“Jesse teaches less than half time at Garfield because of his work with Rethinking Schools,” Castro-Gill wrote. “He authored the course description and curriculum for the only board approved ethnic studies course. His leadership in the BLM@SCHOOL movement has strengthened the fight for ethnic studies. And now the district is not willing to pay the 0.4 FTE to continue his work at Garfield.”

Hagopian teaches ethnic studies and is the co-adviser to the Black Student Union at Garfield. He is a Black man in the classroom in a world that desperately needs more Black male teachers. He also graduated from Garfield High School himself. He is literally the exact person a school like Garfield should be clinging to.

This will have very practical ramifications for Jesse and his family, for the Garfield community and for the district. It has potential ripple effects that could impact the NAACP Youth Coalition’s work as well as the future of ethnic studies in a district that is shamefully lacking in that area.

It also sends a pretty terrible message. One comment on the post described this as “an absolute gut punch to equity practices in our district.” That seems right.

There will be “reasons” that this move was made. There will be explanations. They will probably have to do with the new state law requiring full-time benefits for part-time teachers, or with union contracts prioritizing full-time teachers in certain situations.

But whatever the stated rationale, the idea of displacing the founder and face of the “Black Lives Matter at School” movement sends a message that ethnic studies and racial equity are less than a priority. It hints at the idea that Hagopian and his loudness were a problem — or at best that he and the subject he teaches are not valued. It tells me as a parent that if they can’t find a place for a nationally renowned author and activist teacher who wants to be in their classrooms, then we’re dealing with layers upon layers of problems here.

Honestly, at some point this becomes gaslighting. How many times can a district vocalize a commitment to equity without coming close to backing it up?

Maybe the better question is, how many times are we as parents and community members going to get fooled?

Hopefully it’s not too late in this particular case. From what I understand, we can contact Garfield principal Ted Howard II and the Seattle School Board to voice concerns for the time being.

Jesse, let us know how we can support your continued work whether it’s with or without Seattle Public Schools.