Extremely harmful and dangerous attacks on public education and marginalized youth are occurring in many states and school districts in the United States, including legal attacks on curricula involving critical race theory and African American history and the histories of other marginalized racial groups, the criminalization of gender-affirming healthcare services for transgender youth, and the banning of drag performances (i.e. criminalization of gender non-conforming presentation); Amherst is no exception. The Amherst-Pelham Educators Association (APEA) stands in vehement opposition to these attacks and urges the Amherst Regional Public Schools (ARPS) to do the same.
The APEA believes that every student has the right to a safe, supportive and LGBTQIA+ inclusive PreK-12 education and schooling experience. It is our responsibility to ensure that every member of our school community is valued and respected regardless of gender identity, gender presentation, and sexual orientation. To create an inclusive education that values every student, we are committed to respect each student’s gender identity, gender presentation, their pronouns and sexual orientation. We will interrupt any harassment, intimidation or disrespect to students or staff for their gender identity, gender presentation, pronoun use or sexual orientation.
The APEA believes that racial equity should be at the foundation of education. Racism negatively impacts all students’ learning and directly inhibits BIPOC students’ academic success and experiences at school. To counteract this harm, we fully believe we need to become culturally responsive and actively anti-racist practitioners. This means we will engage in our own racial identity work, explore and interrupt our implicit biases, build our understanding of the dimensions of identity, strengthen our knowledge of how culture operates in our classrooms, and build actively anti-racist practices. We will interrupt all forms of racist language and actions that support white supremacy culture or overwrite students’ cultural values by imposing white cultural values. We will hold ourselves and our community accountable to putting words into action and ensuring that diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded in our schools and practiced by and for our students, families and staff. We believe that by actualizing racial equity and making educational equity and justice the cornerstones in our classrooms and schools, we will create learning environments where each student will receive what they need to develop to their full academic and social potential.
We will disrupt systems of privilege, inequality and oppression that maintain white supremacy cultural values or that punish or silence students and staff depending on their racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic or national identities. We will actively interrupt racist actions and language, and encourage all staff and students to engage in anti-racist practices, procedures and protocols.
The APEA will engage all students, staff and building administration to learn about, teach, discuss, have visible references for, and provide books on topics related to racial, gender, socio-economic, queer, linguistic, and disability justice and reflect identities and histories beyond a dominant white, English-speaking, cisgender male, heterosexual, upper and middle class, able-bodied, neurotypical, Christian paradigm of the US’s history and present day.
In alignment with DESE, we believe in creating a strengthened, safe and supportive learning environment that keeps the health and well-being of students, staff, and families front and center. The APEA will support individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+, place racial equity at the center of our educational practices, goals and institutions and interrupt racism.
We ask the Superintendent to change our district’s mission statement to add anti-racism to our current commitment to multiculturalism; to create a definition of racism and anti-racism to be used by our district in our mission statement, implementing anti-racism in our protocols, procedures and our practices. We ask the Superintendent to interrupt white supremacy culture when expressed by community members or staff, interrupting comments and actions that are imposing WSC that make BIPOC students, their families or staff feel disrespected, unworthy, unvalued.
We ask the Superintendent to stop all comments that are anti-LGBTQIA+ in any form, to intervene when community members or staff make any LGBTQIA+ student or staff, or student and staff questioning their gender identity, feel disrespected, unworthy, or unvalued when they attempt to change their gender identity or presentation.
We ask the Superintendent to make a written commitment to intercede on behalf of staff and administrators if or when community members request district staff’s teachings, practices, and conversations on LGBTQIA+ and racism/white supremacy culture/race to stop.
We ask the Superintendent to collaborate with the APEA to develop a system to safely report acts of racism and anti-LGBTQIA+ by staff and students and a mechanism for accountability for follow-up on these investigations.
APEA will collaborate with the Superintendent to develop training on racial equity and LGBTQIA+ for all district staff and to support staff who demonstrate they need further support in complying with district’s value statements and state laws.