Last week, District 97 administrators released a statement outlining a range of measures that will comprise what they’re calling the district’s Anti-Racism Curriculum for the 2020-21 school year.

This school year, Oak Park public elementary school administrators explained, the district will pilot its first African American history course at Percy Julian Middle School, and engage students at both Julian and Brooks in reading Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. The book is a version of Kendi’s award-winning Stamped from the Beginning but adapted for young readers.

The Oak Park Public Library and the E-Team, a coalition of area stakeholders that provide resources to children in Oak Park, will be leading discussions among parents and community members about the book, said D97 administrators.

Administrators added that the district will also utilize climate and culture coaches and social workers to help support the anti-racism work, and incorporate “teaching and learning materials that are designed to reduce bias, support understanding and appreciation of culture, class, language, ethnicity and other difference.”

District administrators said they’ve collaborated with a range of stakeholders, including the D97 Diversity Council and the E-Team, while building out the first steps in its anti-racism curriculum.

And teachers are working with resources provided by Teaching Tolerance, a national organization started by the Southern Poverty Law Center that provides free social justice and anti-bias resources to kindergarten through high school educators.

The district has also directed parents and guardians to other resources, including the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project — an ongoing initiative that “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

The announcement of the new curriculum comes several months after the May 25 death of George Floyd prompted a national reckoning on race, with many governing bodies in Oak Park releasing statements in support of Black lives and denouncing racism.

In June, D97 Supt. Carol Kelley urged families and community members to “engage in conversations about how we as a society must do better.”

Kelley also directed community members to various reading lists and other educational resources designed to fight racism. Stamped was on that list.  

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