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Conversation Circle: Race and Schooling

The Conversation Circle Series is an opportunity for Park School faculty and staff to come together and discuss a current event related to diversity, equity and inclusion. These topics tend to be the ones that are “trending” on social media or in the news, and these conversation circles allow us some time and space to talk about these issues face to face.
Born out of the frustration that there simply is not enough time in the day to talk about important and relevant current events, this group gathers from 2:05pm-2:25pm (the time between dismissal and the start of faculty meetings) on Tuesdays in rotating rooms. It’s amazing what you can discuss in 20 minutes!

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A recent incident at Spring Valley High School was publicly released and went viral as a video showed a young, Black female student being thrown to the ground by a White, male school security officer. As educators, this brought up many strong feelings about classroom environment, school safety, student responsiveness, discipline vs respect vs obedience, and ongoing racial tensions that our country has been experiencing. The conversation circle focused on two major questions:

  • What were your first reactions about the incident that occurred at Spring Valley High School?
  • National studies have shown that “black students were far more likely than whites to be disciplined in public schools, even for comparable offenses.” What are your first few reactions to that statement? In what way does this conflict with or affirm what you have known or experienced?
  • On social media, comments such as “If she only just complied with the officer’s request …” or “If she was more respectful to her teacher, this never would have happened…” From your lens and experience, what is the difference between obedience and respect? How have you experienced those differences, if at all?

Further, participants were encouraged to view the following two pieces. NOTE: The video and article linked below contain the video (played on repeat) of the incident at Spring Valley High School. 

Article: “She Was Guilty of Being a Black Girl: The mundane terror of police violence in American schools”

Video: Professor Brittney Cooper, Rutgers University, discusses what could have been done differently.

What were your reactions to the both the incident and the public nature of the incident?

Peace and Park,

Liza