Seattle Black Lives Matter fights racism in schools

By Jim McMahan
February 22, 2019

Black Lives Matter at School was held Feb. 4-8 and beyond at schools all across the U.S., including Seattle. This widespread week of action in cities both big and small was scheduled to coincide with Black History Month. (

Growing out of the Black Lives Matter protest movement since 2016, BLMatSchool involves education workers in collaboration with teacher unions, teacher caucuses, community groups and others, especially students.

BLMatSchool fights for an anti-racist agenda and curriculum in public schools and the teaching of Black history and ethnic studies. Many schools hold events every day of action week, especially classes teaching anti-racism. To stimulate student involvement and leadership, activities range from student discussions and artwork to protests later in the week. In New York City, students and teachers held a large protest at the Board of Education.

The four basic demands of BLMatSchool are ending zero-tolerance discipline, replacing it with restorative justice; hiring more Black teachers; mandating Black history and ethnic studies in schools; and funding counselors, not cops.

BLMatSchool has influenced and been involved in teacher strikes across the country. Statements supporting the striking Denver Public School teachers were posted on the website.

A statement for the striking United Teachers of Los Angeles said their demands “were directly aligned with BLMatSchool Week of Action.”

UTLA’s demands were more nurses, counselors, school psychologists, librarians; smaller class sizes; sustainable community schools; a end to privatization and charter expansion; and an end to criminalization of students.

BLMatSchool sent a resolution to support Teachers Against Child Detention, a nationwide organization that held a Feb. 17 rally and teach-in at the border in El Paso, Texas. BLMatSchool supported TACD’s “demands for an immediate release of all immigrant children in U.S. government custody and to shut down all detention centers housing immigrant children.”

Jesse Hagopian, a Seattle teacher and a founder of BLMatSchool, said, “With racist hate crimes on the rise and the president who makes openly racist comments about Africa and Haiti, it is vital that we transform our education to be about uplifting Black lives and undoing racism.” (The Seattle Medium, Jan. 30)