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April 19th, 2017

Parents Want More Diversity Within Our Schools

Natasha Capers talks to crowd as they called on the de Blasio administration to make schools more inclusive and responsive to the diverse students in NYC public schools through Culturally Responsive Education (CRE).
NEW YORK -  Recently, a broad coalition of parents, education advocates, and elected officials joined the city’s largest parent-led organization, the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ), to call on the de Blasio administration to make schools more inclusive and responsive to the diverse students in NYC public schools through Culturally Responsive Education (CRE). As an increasing number of young people are experiencing fears and anxieties about their safety and wellbeing, parents demand that the administration help schools fortify and protect students against the inundation of negative messages that they and their people are not valuable or wanted. Parents claim that most schools are not trained or prepared to arm students with a deep knowledge and pride in who they are and where they come from, and furthermore unequipped to create true oases from racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, sexism and other biases.

CEJ released a detailed platform for how the DOE can scale up and expand current efforts around culturally responsive education to reach many hundreds more schools. With at least half a million students from immigrant families, and hundreds of thousands of Muslim students, undocumented students, LGBTQ students, Jewish students, girls and other identities that have increasingly been targets of harassment and discrimination, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) has an imperative to build strong practices in confronting racism and bias at every level of schooling.  

“We call on the DOE and the Mayor to make it a priority now and for the next mayoral term that NYC schools become national models of combatting racism, xenophobia and all forms of bias in curriculum, pedagogy, and school culture. Hate speech and violent incidents against people of color are even more sharply visible in this country now, and that has a direct effect on our students in NYC. Whether they have experienced this hate personally or heard about it from friends and family, or in the media, they are struggling to understand and make their place in this difficult environment. Our schools should be place that affirm students their cultures and identities,” said Natasha Capers, Coordinator of the Coalition for Educational Justice.

Maria Gil, a parent leader with Make the Road New York said, “I have always wanted children to come to their classrooms and feel at home in a cultural environment where they see themselves reflected. And now that we see an increase in racism in this country, it is time to really have an education that is culturally responsive. I asked my daughter, who is in college, if during her years in school she had ever felt included in the school community as a Latina and a Mexican and she told me no, that her schools always thought she was a good student, but they never saw the potential that she has. CEJ parents want the DOE to expand culturally responsive education so that all children, no matter race or religion or gender, can feel welcome in their schools and have the right to a good education.”

“More than 180 languages are spoken in public school families’ homes, which underscores the stunning diversity in our schools,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Schools’ curriculum, staff, and programs need to reflect and respect students’ backgrounds in order for immigrant students and parents to feel welcome and to fuel students’ academic success.”

“If children in communities of color don’t have access to high-quality schools and culturally-affirming curricula and pedagogy, they will never have a real opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and achieve the American dream” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “All children have the right to a fair and equitable education that instills knowledge and pride in their own heritage, and the diversity of NYC. Education can only be the great equalizer if it is culturally responsive to all communities in our City.”

“Hispanic Federation stands with the Coalition for Education Justice in urging City Hall and the Department of Education to enhance students’ education through well-rounded curricula that incorporates diverse culture and heritage.  Now more than ever, it’s critical that we ensure our schools are safe havens for our students and beacons of inclusion and representation.  Students of all backgrounds deserve an education that connects academic study to contemporary issues, and is grounded in understanding the rich history and cultures of the NYC student population” said

Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation said, “We’re in a political climate that’s being exasperated, if not caused, by our inabilities to understand and respect those different than ourselves. To stop this, we have to empower New York City schools, parents, educators, and most importantly, our children to start changing these conversations,” said Council Member Brad Lander.  “I stand with the Coalition for Education Justice because it’s imperative that the Department of Education lead the conversation on how to eradicate racial disparities in the system, in order to create a learning environment that’s fun, engaging, and most importantly safe. These empowered students will ensure that our communities, that New York City, will prosper and stay united.”

“In efforts to support our City’s families, I am proud to stand with the Coalition for Educational Justice in their advocacy for education that is relevant and culturally responsive,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “This includes a curriculum that highlights contributions made by other cultures and the LGBTQ community and a strong focus on restorative justice. For too long, students have been penalized in a system that does more to condemn differences as oppose to celebrate and promote them. As our City stands up to leadership in D.C. that will continue to divide and drive hate, we must do right by New Yorkers by promoting diversity in our neighborhoods”.

“The platform and recommendations created by the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) will help us build the safe and nurturing learning environment our students deserve,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “Their campaign to bring Culturally Responsive Education to DOE schools shows how we can inform, empower and protect our kids.”

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