Posted on February 9, 2021

Black Lives Matter Movement Goes to School to Teach Students About Social Justice

Melanie Burney, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 4, 2021

This week, the first graders in Tamar LaSure-Owens’ class have started social studies lessons the same way every day: belting out the lyrics to a Black Lives Matter song that encourages them to speak up about social injustice.

LaSure-Owens used the catchy song to engage students in her virtual class at the Leeds Avenue School in Pleasantville to mark Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. Teachers across the country are sharing lessons and having frank conversations about the movement with students of all ages.

“All skin colors are as good as each other. That’s why we should be treated the same. But for far too long Black people have suffered, so all around the world we are saying that must change,” the class sang.

In Philadelphia, where more than 50% of students are Black, students began learning about the Black Lives Matter movement in 2017. Other cities, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, are also teaching it. The idea was the brainchild of the Caucus of Working Educators, an activist group within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

City schools are participating for the fifth straight year, said district spokesperson Monica Lewis. {snip}


“We need to make sure we do not lose that momentum,” said Stephanie James Harris, executive director of the New Jersey Amistad Commission, which helps schools incorporate African American history into their curriculum. “Students need to know how they can galvanize around the idea of how they can be change agents. {snip}”

The National Education Association, one of the country’s largest teachers’ unions, encouraged its members to participate in activities from Feb. 1 to 5, but not just lesson plans. It called for implementing restorative justice practices, hiring more Black teachers, and mandating Black history and ethnic studies.


Harris, who provides professional development to help teachers, said the lessons should be developmentally appropriate and incorporated into the regular curriculum — the same approach she encourages for Black history instruction.

In Pleasantville, all four of the district’s K-through-fifth-grade schools are participating in the Black Lives Matter lessons, LaSure-Owens said. The district is developing a curriculum for its middle and high school students, she said.


Collingswood High School history teacher Eric Fieldman said he supports teaching about the movement but wants it presented throughout the school year. He teaches American history and a civil rights and social justice elective course.

“It can’t just be the one and done,” said Fieldman. “Black history is American history.”