New proposal seeks to 'transform how schools treat Black students' in Oakland

One teacher is also calling for a curriculum that better reflects the student population, and the need to hire more Black teachers, who may add to cultural competency.
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Pecolia Manigo, who is the Executive Director of the Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network, or Bay Area PLAN, says, for decades, many Black students have been stuck in a system that creates barriers to achievement.

"That it is acceptable for Black students to be suspended. That is acceptable for Black students to be expelled. That is acceptable for Black students not achieve grade level standards," says Manigo. "We have to begin to look at those things as a part of the design of the current system. And make a concentrated decision to address it now."

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Manigo's group is part of the Justice For Oakland Students (J4OS) community coalition. According to J4OS's statistics for the 2017-2018 school year, more than 50 percent of Black students were below grade level in math and reading; Black students accounted for 60 percent of suspensions, though they are only 24 percent of the student population; and 72 percent percent of Black 8th graders were not ready for high school.

J4OS will address the school board at the district meeting on Wednesday night with a plan titled "Reparations for Black Students."

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They want LCFF money, which is unrestricted state school funding, to be put towards programs that target students who are struggling. That may also include students who are homeless, in foster care, or who have special needs.

"It just means that students need more. They need more one-on-one attention. They need a particular set of solutions that reduce the harm that they are experiencing in their life," says Manigo.

"So, the investment in police, versus restorative justice. Counseling programs that can keep youth engaged in staying in schools. Those are the types of investments that have not been made over the last several decades in Oakland," she adds.

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"(It's) really thinking about how we can dismantle anti-Black racism in the school district," says Kampala Taiz-Rancifer, a teacher in the Oakland school district and who is part of the Oakland Education Association, which is also part of J4OS.

She says the coalition also wants curriculum that better reflects the student population, such as ethnic studies, and need to hire more Black teachers, who may add to cultural competency.

She points to a similar, successful program in West Contra Costa County that was able to secure several million dollars of LCFF money to help struggling students.

"We believe if we were able to do something similar, here in Oakland, we would be able to we would be able to raise that amount of money, in addition to $2.3 million dollars that we were able to obtain from dismantling the school police," explains Taiz-Rancifer. "Our students are in a state of emergency. And we have the power here to get this resolved together."

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Black Organizing Project (BOP), based in Oakland, works for racial, social and economic justice through grassroots community organizing and policy. They are also part of J4OS's effort.

They write:
"The Black Reparations Plan is an extension of the work that the Black Organizing Project has been doing for nearly 10 years. We know criminalization happens in many different ways including academically. When students don't have access to adequate resources, they don't get adequate education."

"Our allies at OEA understand that in order to transform an entire school climate we have to look at the issue holistically. BOP stands on this value as well. We understood now, and even ten years ago, that police abolition is just the START to transformation. We must transform how schools treat Black students and address anti-Blackness at the core. This plan is not only about having real conversations, but about building in accountability for teachers and all school staff as we address anti-Blackness in the system."

For its part, in an email to ABC7 News, the Oakland Unified School District says: "OUSD staff looks forward to hearing the presentation on Black Sanctuary from our labor partners, along with any other information they share with our Board of Education at Wednesday evening's meeting."
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