Testimony of Kristin Luebbert to the BOE, June 25, 2020

Good evening Board members and Dr. Hite, My name is Kristin Luebbert, a Philadelphia educator, PFT member, and member of the Racial Justice Organizing Committee . I am here tonight to plead with you to immediately require  that the District provide and make mandatory Anti-Racist training for all adults who currently work in Philadelphia district schools.

Members of Racial Justice Organizing first made this request to the board in December, 2019, and while it is true that many district employees  have been diligently working on this issue, recent events have made painfully clear that we must act now to educate the adults who work with our children every day. We must act now to prevent the trauma that is being inflicted daily upon Black students by the very adults who are charged with their education and protection.

I am sure that many of you have seen or heard of the content that the Instagram accounts Black At Masterman and Black Philly Students have put out about their experiences in some of Philadelphia’s magnet and de-facto magnet schools. When I read of the actions of some of the teachers at Masterman, I was outraged, but sadly, not surprised.

As I said in December, the pervasive racism that has infected our country from its birth needs to be actively addressed–it is appalling  that our Black students are subtly and insidiously reminded each and every day that they are somehow seen as “other” or “less than” in their own schools. As a friend of mine noted, perhaps these racist aggressions seem so prevalent at the magnets because it is baked into their very DNA that certain children do not belong there.

It is beyond clear that our schools are not functioning as Anti-Racist systems. Teachers and other adults need high quality and ongoing training  and platforms to do the internal work they need to do. Principals need to be put on notice that this will no longer be tolerated and ignored. The fish rots from the head, and it is clear that some of these principals have enabled a trauma inflicting culture at their schools. 

The district also needs to provide a safe process (not the principal or dean of the toxic schools) for students to report these issues–a process by which they and their families can receive appropriate support. Instagram is great for raising awareness, but now we need to quickly and actively begin to work on this problem. The school district needs to implement a process that is outside of the school for reporting these all-too-common instances of racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, or other systemic hatred.  There should be protections and no repercussions for the reporter (student or staff). 

It is also painfully apparent  that we need a racial equity board in every school. The SDP should implement this before the beginning of SY 20/21.

White people in this country, even people with several university degrees like teachers, have not been truly educated about our country’s deep, persistent, and ongoing oppression of Black people. This has become ever more obvious this week with the revelations of a culture of racism at Masterman and other magnets.  This issue requires more than good will and “niceness”. It requires an active, radical ANTI-racist stance. We can and must “challenge the norm”.

It may be that we need to tear down these structures of Masterman and other magnets in order to rebuild them in an Anti-Racist way.