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Buffalo Public Schools to introduce 'emancipation' curriculum

Buffalo Public Schools

Buffalo Public Schools is unveiling a new curriculum focused on elevating the achievements and histories of marginalized peoples in an effort to address systemic racism in education.

The Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Initiatives office, or CLRI, of Buffalo Public Schools has experimented in the past with infusing history outside of just what they call the “Euro-centric lens.” Things like the 1619 Project, Amistad curriculum, and the Robert Kennedy Speak Truth to Power curriculum all have been supported by the BPS. Now, the district is set to introduce its all encompassing emancipation curriculum as early as next week.

“Students see themselves positively in the curriculum, and it addresses a cognitive domain,” said Fatima Morrell, a BPS associate superintendent and head of CLRI. “So when we say emancipation, what are we freeing ourselves from? We are freeing our children from the locks on their young minds on what they can and can’t do; the racial stereotypes that come with being a black or brown student.”

Morrell said each grade level will have lesson plans tailored for students by age, and includes interactive and engaging multimedia learning resources using timelines, music, documentaries, and art to guide students along the study of African-American, Indigenous, Latin X, and New Americans histories, as well as more contemporary topics. 

“We leave it so parents and teachers can use this, and they don’t have to go far. Our graphic organizers are there, the way we teach the vocabulary is also included,” Morrell said. “For example, this book we use pictures for our English language learners who also learn better by looking at visuals.”

The emancipation curriculum is based on the 13 principles of Black Lives Matter at Schools, a national coalition of educators based in Seattle. Principles like restorative justice, empathy, and collective value. Morrell believes it would be ignorant to not teach students with that in mind.

“This is to bring awareness to the current international Black Lives Matter movement because it is present, and it is current,” she said. “And how dare we not teach black and white children about a historic movement that is unfolding right before their very eyes?”

The curriculum is aimed to be highly diverse, and to make for a more representative education based on the communities and cultures BPS serves.

Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.
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