In more ways than one, December marked a significant step toward increasing social-justice resources in the classrooms of San Francisco's public schools.
On Dec. 9, the Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution that expands the San Francisco Unified School District's current ethnic studies course offerings to all public high schools, as well as infuses multiethnic and multiculturalism into middle school classrooms.
Also around that same time, a group of five teacher librarians created an online compilation of resources related to the nationwide black lives matter movement that has set off protests throughout the Bay Area and U.S. in recent weeks in response to the deaths of two unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers.
The demonstrations spurred from grand jury decisions to not indict the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Mo., as well as in the case of Eric Garner, who was allegedly selling cigarettes illegally in Staten Island, N.Y., when he died after being choked by an officer.
Chalida Anusasananan, a teacher librarian at Everett Middle School who helped launch the resource guide, said both incidents and the subsequent protests have hit home with many public-school students in San Francisco, where nearly 90 percent are nonwhite.
“We wanted to make sure that teachers had a means to teach what students were talking about with their families, or seeing on the news, or feeling every day,” Anusasananan said.
The resources, posted to the SFUSD's LibGuide page, includes the grand jury documents, poetry, videos and graphics, readings, and lesson plans and activities for elementary, middle and high school students.
“What has to happen first and foremost is to create a safe space in the classroom for young people to talk about these things,” said Karen Zapata, a humanities teacher at June Jordan High School and a co-founder of the grass-roots organization Teachers 4 Social Justice. “What's happened affects young people on an emotional level.”
Though the district has been on break for two weeks — the majority of the time the black lives matter resources have been online — the guide was among the most-viewed on the SFUSD's LibGuide page as of Thursday.
Board member Matt Haney said he believes the black lives matter teaching resources will thrive even more once school begins Monday because it aligns with the district's greater efforts to promote social justice.
“I think this is going to be used by a lot of teachers, and there's going to be a lot of excitement about this resource,” Haney said.
He added that the SFUSD is the only district he knows of making such a guide available to the public.
“I'm not sure if there are many other school districts that openly talk about social justice and equity as much as ours,” Haney said.