A junior high school in lower Manhattan is planning to separate students by race for discussions about identity and social justice curricula in the coming days, according to a report.
The New York Post noted that the Lower Manhattan Community School is planning the controversial discussions next week as a means of fulfilling a mission to “undo the legacy of racism and oppression in this country that impacts our school community,” an email to parents seen by the paper stated.
In the email, Principal Shanna Douglas said the seventh- and eighth-grade students would be grouped into one of five categories.
The categories include white, Asian, Hispanic, and African-American groups as well as another for students who are multi-racial, the email said.
“On November 23rd and 24th, 7th and 8th graders will explore the question ‘How do our racial identities influence our experiences?’ in affinity groups,” Douglas wrote. “An affinity group is a group formed around a shared interest.”
In addition, there will be another group for those who may be uncomfortable with the exercise’s format, according to The Post. That group will use the line of discussion, “Why are we even talking about racial identity?” the email says.
“This optional program was developed in close coordination with both the School Leadership Team, PTA and families,” said New York Department of Education spokesman Nathaniel Styer, who added that it is “abundantly clear to both students and parents that anyone can opt-out of this two-day celebration if they desire.”
In her email, the LMCS principal noted further that she’s making it a point to focus on race this year because “students are talking about it since race has become a popular topic on social media, or parents are talking even more about it at home due to the recent incidents across the nation.”
She also claimed that in the past, the school — which is comprised of 44 percent Asian, 29 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent black — had not adequately addressed racial issues before now.
One mother told The Post that while dividing kids could come with some problems, she believes school officials and educators can deal with them.
“I think our teachers know how to handle it,” the mother told the paper.
Another parent said outside the school on Thursday she also did not have any problems with the curriculum.
“The staff is very good about being clear when it comes to race,” she noted.
But not all parents are on board with the exercises, with some saying that separating kids by race is inherently problematic.
“I think a lot of us feel like this is too much,” another mother told the paper. “But most parents are too afraid to say anything at this point. Why are we separating our kids like this?”
A father, meanwhile, also said he believes that the school ought to be focusing more on traditional academics and stay away from politically divisive instruction.
“Teach the history,” he said. “Tell that story. I’m all for an honest accounting. But this is something different. It’s insidious.”
For her part, Douglas did instruct parents to contact her with concerns.
“I know that RACE is a complex issue for us all to address,” she wrote in the email.
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