RCSD to observe Black Lives Matter at School Day

February 16, 2017 06:25 AM

Rochester City School District will join dozens of other school districts across the county observing Black Lives Matter at School Day on Friday, February 17th. It’s the first time the district will participate.

Chris Widmaier is an instructional coach and science teacher at World of Inquiry School (School #58) and he looks a lot different than the majority of his students.

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"As a white teacher I can't relate at all to the experience of being black so my job is to listen to students and their families and understand the bigger picture,” Widmaier said.

According to the most recent demographics, students in RCSD are 59 percent Black, 27 percent Latino, and 10 percent Caucasian. The teachers however are a different story. The district says most of the teachers are white.

With that in mind, Widmaier sat on the committee that brought Black Lives Matter at School Day to the district, but not without controversy. Critics of BLM say it's a violent organization that targets cops, but Widmaier says that's not true. That concept will be one of the subjects of his lesson Friday.

“We'll build background about the BLM movement, where it came from, what its goals are and from that hashtag until now what's been happening,” Widmaier said.

He says he will also show how BLM relates to science.

“We will look at some of the environmental problems that affect black people disproportionately like lead poisoning,” Widmaier said.

Teachers will have the freedom of incorporating Black Lives Matter any way they see fit. If they choose, they also have the option not to teach it at all. For the most part, the RCSD School Board President Van White says there hasn't been too much direct opposition.

“The person that pushed this resolution was a white woman and the people that will be offering this up to our students are by and large white, 80 percent of our teachers are white,” White said.

Regardless of race, White says everyone should understand the inequity in our country.

“These national studies are telling us that African Americans are disproportionately put in special education classes, disproportionately kicked out of school and racially profiled on the streets of our nation,” White said.

He also adds, of course all lives matter, but that can’t be true until black lives do.

“It's not that other lives don't matter,” White said. “It's just that the data doesn't suggest that white people are not targeted like black people are in schools and in the community.”

This is an initiative organizers say they want to continue every year. 


Kaci Jones

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