Solidarity Statement with JeffCo Students

Solidarity Statement with JeffCo Students

In 1991 at Valverde Elementary a white principal punished Spanish-speaking students by making them eat lunch on the floor. Parents protested this racist use of discipline in Denver Public Schools and organized to successfully replace administrative leadership at Valverde. Those are the roots of my organization, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos. Is this a history Jeffco would refuse to teach?As an organization that works to end racism and bring equity in public schools, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos stands in solidarity with the Jeffco teachers and students staging walkouts. We join their opposition of a proposal that would eliminate historical events of “civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law” from AP United States History in Jeffco schools.  Our organization has the same question as school board member Lesley Dahlkemper, who asks: “Does it mean Jeffco will no longer study the civil rights movement, the Boston Tea Party or women’s suffrage?”
Our organization and movement would be omitted under that scope. The racist implications in the proposal are clear because our history in the United States, the history of people of color and the immigrant, is one of social strife. The proposal suggests that our stories should not be told. A truthful presentation of history is crucial to dismantle racism and inequity in public schools. Everyone must know the stories of marginalized people and the ways we organized to fight racist or oppressive laws. Would students no longer learn that there used to be laws against interracial marriage, speaking Spanish in school, or letting women vote? How would they learn of rights that were only won through civil disobedience?
Teaching history grounds future generations for understanding current dynamics in society. Without this history, people will not understand why, across Colorado, students of color are 6 times more likely to be given harsher punishments than their white peers for the same offense, the racism that fuels the school-to-prison pipeline, or why we need legislation like the Smart School Discipline Law (passed in 2012 with the help of Padres & Jóvenes Unidos). This pioneering law makes Colorado an exemplary leader in the nation for creating safer schools while keeping students in school and learning. Without the history of why laws like these are necessary, Colorado would rob all students of a quality education and the truth of where we came from and who we are.
From school discipline, to academic achievement, even to nutrition and exercise options at school - all aspects of our public schools demand social action and justice. It must be taught. We are proud and inspired by the students who are calling for the truth to be told. To not teach it would gravely injure Jeffco, Colorado, and the United States. Therefore, we stand proudly in solidarity with the protesters whose own history would be omitted, along with ours, if this proposal were implemented.
Sincerely,
Ricardo Martinez

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