Talking About Race With Your Child – Parent Engagement Series

Dear Families,

As I hope you have heard, this year MS 447 and the PTA have partnered to bring a series of speakers and workshops to our school, designed to be engaging, relevant, and informative for our parent community. We have grouped four of these series under the umbrella of “Talking About Race With Your Child.” I’d like to provide you with some context for why we have decided to dedicate four sessions to this topic.   

Two years ago, I had a conversation with a PTA member who noted that she had heard from some parents of color that had expressed feelings of alienation in the 447 community. Around the same time, a staff committee formed to study restorative justice practices in schools, with the intention of bringing those practices into our school. But the more we delved into loaded topics around discipline/behavior in our school, and criminal justice systems outside our walls, there was a growing sense that we didn’t have a mechanism or basic comfort level with talking about race, a topic that is integral to exploring restorative practices. It was then that we decided to step back, and to put some real work, as adult educators, into learning about and talking about race and racism.  

Last year, in our school’s annual goals, we included a mandate to bring honest conversations about race and diversity into our everyday discourse. We are a relatively diverse school, and that is something we are proud of. However, we had tended to keep our conversations comfortable, allowing ourselves to refer to the benefits of our diversity without acknowledging the more difficult aspects of living in a racialized society and city. Throughout last school year, with generous PTA support, we worked as a staff on an ongoing basis with an organization called Border Crossers. Border Crossers facilitated difficult conversations about race, and helped us to become better listeners in those conversations. Our nine sessions with Border Crossers were the focus for our professional development last year, and were required of all staff members.

This type of work has no distinct endpoint or answer, but the work we did last year would be lost if we did not continue and extend it. So this year, it makes sense for us to begin to bring those honest and difficult conversations into our classrooms and hallways, both through curriculum and through organic discussion, in order to achieve greater racial equity as kids pass through our school and move on to high school and adulthood.

Now, we invite you, as the families of the children we spend our days with, to participate in our ongoing learning. Our four parent sessions on Talking About Race With Your Child explore the construct of race, bias, privilege, and racism, and real world age-appropriate scenarios. They are designed to get you talking amongst adults, to better equip you to have conversations with your children, and to help you guide your children through a racialized society. Some of the sessions are presented by our own “in-house” experts, and others are presented by outside providers, including Border Crossers. Although the first session already happened, I encourage you to join us for the following sessions. Childcare will be provided.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Sincerely,

Arin M. Rusch

Principal