D97 unveils new 'anti-racism curriculum'

New Black history course at Julian, books on racism anchor new instructional emphasis

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

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.  

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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Reader Comments

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William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: September 9th, 2020 1:15 PM

In his new book Rage, for which he recorded Trump with his permission, Bob Woodward opined that both he and Trump were "white, privileged," and asked ifTrump could see that they both had to "work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country." Trump s reply? .. "No, "You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn't you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don't feel that at all." . .I'd say Democrats don't have to work to "keep Black voters fearful, angry and resentful." Republicans are handling that all on their own.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: September 9th, 2020 11:38 AM

"Black votes matter to many politicians ?" more so than black lives. That is why such politicians must try to keep black voters fearful, angry and resentful. Racial harmony would be a political disaster for such politicians." "Racial polarization makes both the black population and the white population worse off, but it makes politicians who depend on black votes better off." - Thomas Sowell

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: September 8th, 2020 6:50 PM

You do realize, don't you, Dean, that, the Orange Goof's personal behavior aside, the CDC's formal guidance is to wear a mask. So not sure what you point is- and I doubt you're sure either.

Dean Rogers  

Posted: September 8th, 2020 3:28 PM

@Jeffrey Smith Or Marxism, taking a knee while wearing a mask.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: September 8th, 2020 12:04 PM

There are people on this thread who will welcome fascism with one raised arm and a goose step.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: September 8th, 2020 10:23 AM

I hope this helps. Meanwhile, I hope they are focusing on the regular things like math and english, because the gap is never going to go away otherwise.

Dima Ali from oak park  

Posted: September 8th, 2020 10:02 AM

Yes! Finally a project to educate our students about race and racism. I'm 100% in support of this and I hope other districts will follow suit. It's a overdue project and it's about time Im not surprised that some are upset and uncomfortable, but that's their thing and they'll live to see changes take place whether they like it or not. In fact I enjoy seeing adults throwing tantrums because of an anti-racism program in our community!

Rob Ruffulo  

Posted: September 8th, 2020 7:24 AM

How about a class on all the crime in oak park, more STEM classes, who is rioting and looting...what about basic education?? First they want to tear down statues now they want students to read about these people.

Tom Leeds  

Posted: September 7th, 2020 8:53 PM

Neal, diversity is a leading career track at large corporations.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: September 7th, 2020 5:26 PM

I hope there is also a renewed focus on STEM classes.

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