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Protest forces Minneapolis Board of Education to remove racist curriculum

By staff |
October 15, 2015
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Minneapolis, MN – On Oct. 13 protesters packed the Board of Education located on West Broadway Avenue in the heart of North Minneapolis. The board was meeting and taking public comment on the controversial Reading Horizons curriculum, that the district recently paid $1.2 million for, to help “close the achievement gap” in literacy between students of color and their white peers. Protest from educators and community members erupted last month upon distribution of materials and trainings, when the curriculum was found to include content that was inundated with racism and male chauvinism.

Public comment went on for over two hours as community members, parents, educators, students and activists aired grievances over the content of the curriculum, the process by which the board adopted the curriculum and the board’s blatant hostility towards community criticism and concern throughout the past month. Among the demands raised were an immediate end to the relationship between the district and the company, accountability for those responsible for the purchase and implementation of the curriculum and future community involvement in district decision-making processes.

Among those first to speak was Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds, who highlighted the curriculum and the board’s conduct as an example of the deeply rooted institutional racism still prevalent in the public education today. Dozens of other public comments levied a great deal of criticism toward the board for the failure of the district to follow its own policies, protocol and procedures in regard to equity and diversity, as well as in properly vetting the content and curriculum. Public comments also critiqued the districts relationship with corporate profiteers. Finally, many demanded accountability from the board, including resignations and terminations of those responsible for the adoption of the curriculum. Moving forward, protesters demanded both accountability and proper community engagement in the processes that shape district policies and programs.

The meeting concluded with board giving in to the demands of protesters by voting to immediately terminate the contract with the Reading Horizons Company. The board, however, still remained uncertain if it would be able to reclaim the $1.2 million spent on the curriculum. Chairperson Jenny Arneson said that she understood the community was “frustrated and rightfully distrust us,” and that moving forward the board was committed to “repair those errors” and “create a plan to prevent future harm.” Interim superintendent Michael Goar recognized the failure of the board and explained, “If we had done our job, clearly, the board would not be in this predicament.”

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