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How do local schools teach black history?

February 05, 2019 06:26 PM

(WHEC) -- February marks the start of Black History Month. It's a time designated to honor and acknowledge the contributions of black Americans. 

News10NBC looks into whether local schools are doing enough to teach students about all cultures and their efforts to improve.

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Northeast College Prep senior JosiahTavolino is learning how to make ceramic masks in art class, but in history class, there's something missing.

"It makes me feel weird that we're not learning about us," Tavolino said. "We're learning about everything other than us."

By "us" he means black people.

In his time at the Rochester City School District, Tavolino says lessons on black Americans have been limited. That's something Principal Ali Abdulmateen is working to fix. 

For starters, there are several events planned to celebrate black culture and excellence.

"We're not there yet, but I think we're at a point where people are beginning to understand that this is a necessary part of our instructional program," Abdulmateen said.

It's a shift happening district-wide. Stephen LaMorte, the executive director of social studies for the district, says officials are specifically looking at the social studies curriculum.

"You know because black history is American history," LaMorte said.

District officials set up a new website for teachers to learn to build black history into the curriculum.

"With a large majority of our students being students of color, we need to make sure they see themselves in our curriculum on a daily basis because it brings them value, it brings them an identity, and it brings them self-love," LaMorte said.

However, 82 percent of teachers nationwide are white. Tasha Potter, the director of equity for Greece schools, says training allows them to fill that gap.

"We know that our student population is diverse, but our teacher population is not that's why we have this priority in our district for culturally responsive education," Potter said.

In a four-day course, teachers learn a wide range of topics like culture, implicit bias, white fragility, and microaggressions. The last day is spent forming a plan of action.

"When we think about doing something, it means you leave this training, and you become a participant in your building and across the district," Potter said.

Even so, teaching black history remains an option and not a requirement. 

A new bill in the Assembly could change that. A downstate assemblywoman introduced bill 3029, which would require all schools to have a multicultural curriculum.

There is no sponsor in the Senate and right now, it has been referred to the Education Committee.

While we wait to see what happens with the bill, Tavolino wants classes on black history.

Credits

Kaci Jones

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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