Center School students awarded for speaking out in teacher controversy
Thursday, June 20, 2013 7:46 AM
Friday, June 14, was Jon Greenberg’s last day as a teacher at The Center School, a public arts high school on the grounds of Queen Anne’s Seattle Center, where Greenberg was a founding teacher.
Center School Students listen as Mayor Mike McGinn proclaims it Center School Day at the awards ceremony.
The day before, Center School students were awarded the Mayor’s Award and Proclamation at City Hall for speaking out when the district suspended the school’s Citizens and Social Justice class taught by Greenburg.
The students received the award specifically for “speaking up and expressing their feelings to reinstate the curriculum,” according to Julia Sterkovsky, executive director of the Seattle Human Services Coalition, which sponsored the award on behalf of its Non-Profit Against-Racism Coalition.
Seattle Public Schools had suspended the class during the investigation of a complaint made by one student’s parents.
Sterkovsky said, “The coalition supports teaching of difficult topics that encourage students to speak out on issues of race and equality, while understanding these conversations can upset current power structures.”
Mayor Mike McGinn proclaimed it Center School Day and congratulated the students.
Parents and students are continuing to fight Greenberg’s district-mandated transfer to Hamilton International Middle School in Wallingford, according to Geraldine Carroll, another teacher at The Center School.
Parents and students have formed a group called Courageous Curriculum and are meeting on Sundays at 2 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Seattle Center Armory; the public is invited.
The teachers’ union also plan to file a grievance, Carroll said.
Greenberg, who has taught at The Center School since it opened in 2001, has been the center of an ongoing controversy for more than seven months, regarding his Social and Justice class, for which he used a Courageous Conversations curriculum model. One student’s parents filed a complaint that their child had felt intimidated in class.
District and independent investigations determined that Greenberg had “likely violated” the district’s Intimidation, Harassment and Bullying Policy by having a petition passed out in class to have it reinstated; the student whose parents filed the complaint was in that particular class. This resulted in the mandatory district transfer to Hamilton Middle School for Greenberg and a modification in the teaching of the Courageous Conversations part of the class.
Superintendent Jose Banda said, regarding the findings, “Teaching social-justice issues is an important part of academics for our students. These can often be difficult conversations, but they help prepare our students to become global citizens. I cannot stress enough how much I value curriculum on race and social justice. However, these are subjects that must be taught in ways that are age-appropriate and non-threatening.”
To comment on this story, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.