Atlanta Has Always Embraced Peaceful Civic Engagement (and so will APS)

On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 14, 2018, our country watched in shock (again) as we learned the horrifying details of a mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. It happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — part of the Broward County Public School District — where, tragically, 17 students and staff lost their lives, and more than a dozen were seriously injured at the hands of a lone gunman. This day marked yet another senseless and devastating act of violence in our schools, sparking national outrage and debate about school safety and gun violence.

For us at Atlanta Public Schools and for so many other school districts around the country, this tragedy hits home and strikes at the core of everything about which we care. We believe our schools should be safe places for students to learn, explore, and engage in the world around them and for educators to teach and inspire. The safety and security of our students and staff is our top priority and it’s something we take very seriously.

As many of you may know, on March 14, 2018, one month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, organizers around the country are calling for a National School Walkout at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to protest government inaction on violence in schools and neighborhoods. You may have seen information on social media and on websites encouraging students, teachers, and their allies around the country to organize on that day, preferably a walkout, and demand that Congress take legislative action on keeping schools safe.

As the birthplace and school district of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Atlanta Public Schools takes seriously our responsibility to prepare our students to succeed beyond high school and to help them become well-rounded individuals equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary for actively engaging in society. And, as someone who was born and raised in Selma, Alabama, I have a personal appreciation and respect for the impact civic engagement can have on social change.

To support student engagement around a national dialogue on National School Walkout Day, our schools will work with our students on these issues and work with student leaders to develop a structured plan that will be implemented during that 17-minute timeframe. Some schools are already getting prepared for the learning experience!

I’m excited that our Teaching & Learning team is preparing age-appropriate, recommended instructional activities to support teachers’ efforts in facilitating this conversation around civic engagement and social responsibility.

It’s important that I emphasize here that any participation in any student-led protests or demonstration on March 14th at 10 a.m. is optional and we’re limiting the grade level to secondary schools. More information will be provided to our families closer to the date.

We are proactively communicating with students about the guidelines that will be in place around their participation in the non-disruptive activities (e.g. once the 17-minute activity is complete, instruction must resume and students who choose to go outside those expectations will be considered in violation of our discipline code).  It is also important for students to remember that disruptive “walkouts” are against district policy, and any student led demonstrations that have not received prior approval will result in disciplinary consequences.  Said simply, while we support peaceful organized protesting that is school sanctioned (with prior approval), we do not support disruption of school or obstruction of the school district’s mission, process or function as explained in board policy.

APS is focused on graduating every student ready for college and career. But, at the same time, we know that for our students to succeed, they must also be able to engage in the world around them. We believe that by creating opportunities for safe, structured, student-led civic engagement around a national dialogue such as this one, we are ultimately helping our students develop social and emotional learning skills and be informed residents in our democracy.

 

“SELMA” for APS Students – High school students can go for FREE while supplies last!!!

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Everyone who knows me, knows that I am passionate about education.  If there is anything that rivals my love of public education…it is my love for my hometown of Selma, Alabama.

This year Selma celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  This was a social justice campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of opposition.

Paramount Pictures recently released the movie “SELMA” which tells the story of this movement.  The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965 when civil rights leaders, many from right here in Atlanta, won one of the most significant victories of the movements’ history. King attended APS’ Booker T. Washington High School and entered Morehouse College during his junior year in high school.  I am thrilled that the Atlanta community answered the challenge set by business leaders in New York and throughout the nation, and will kick off the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday weekend by providing free movie tickets for “SELMA” to 10,000 APS high school (9th-12th grades) students beginning Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.

Members of the Atlanta community raised more than $100,000 to purchase tickets for the film. Director Ava DuVernay’s “SELMA” tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. The film also stars Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Carmen Ejogo, Lorraine Toussaint, with Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey as “Annie Lee Cooper.”

The movie has an excellent educational component for our teachers that includes lesson plans that meet Common Core Standards to incorporate into the district’s curriculum.

STUDENT “ASSIGNMENT”: Our students who present a current Atlanta Public Schools’ ID or report card at the box office of any participating theater will receive free admission while tickets last. The metro Atlanta theaters are:

  • AMC PARKWAY POINTE 15-Atlanta
  • AMC PHIPPS PLAZA 14-ATLANTA
  • AMC SOUTHLAKE 24-MORROW
  • AMC STONECREST 16-LITHONIA
  • CARMIKE CINEMAS MOVIES ATL 14-ATLANTA
  • REGAL ATLANTIC STATION 18 IMAX & RPX-ATLANTA
  • REGAL HOLLYWOOD 24 @ NORTH I-85-CHAMBLEE
  • REGAL PERIMETER POINT STADIUM 10-ATLANTA

The diversity of our group of funders accurately represents our city.  We’re proud of the fact that people from all backgrounds and income levels that have come forward to share Dr. King’s message with APS students.  We had a range of donations where people gave what they could, including one very special $16 gift.  I love this city’s generous nature and our generous corporations, Chick-fil-A and Newell Rubbermaid, as well as well as individuals of all means who came together to make this happen.

I appreciate the efforts of Dr. Michael Lomax, president & CEO, United Negro College Fund; Hala Moddelmog, president & CEO, Metro Atlanta Chamber; and Dr. John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., president, Morehouse College.

In addition, the following supporters are making it possible for 10,000 APS high school students to see “SELMA”:

Large Funders $10,000

Chick-fil-A

Ford Foundation

Greenberg Traurig

Bill Lewis & Carol Sutton-Lewis
Chuck Phillips
Myrtle Potter & Alan Thompson
Newell Rubbermaid

The Family of Meria Carstarphen

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Other Funders ($9,999-$1,000)

Atlanta Board of Education

AFCME

Coast to Coast Tours

Georgia-Pacific & Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia

Georgia Natural Gas

Hara Amdemariam

H.J. Russell and Company

Kathy and Kenny Waller

Metro Atlanta Chamber

The Integral Group

Thomas Kennedy Sampson & Tompkins

United Way of Metro Atlanta

Endorsing Organizations

100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc.

Atlanta Business League

Atlanta City Council

Atlanta Women’s Club

Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA

CARE

Dogwood City Chapter of The Links, Incorporated

First Congregational Church

National Black MBA Association – Atlanta Chapter

National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. – Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter

National Sales Network Atlanta

S.C.L.C Women

The Andrew Young Foundation

The C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights

The Urban League of Greater Atlanta

United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta

Endorsing Individuals

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard

Mr. Lonnie King

Dr. Joseph E. Lowery

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell

Dr. C. T. Vivian

Ambassador Andrew J. Young

“SELMA” is nominated for Academy Awards® for Best Picture and Best Original Song for “Glory” by Common & John Legend. The film earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Song for “Glory” and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director.

The film’s educational outreach includes a curriculum guide with 11 interdisciplinary lesson plans in Social Studies, ELA, Geography, Math and Art. All lessons meet Common Core State Standards.  Educators and parents may download a curriculum guide by visiting:

http://bazaned.com/selma-curriculum-guidehttp://bazaned.com/selma-curriculum-guidehttp://bazaned.com/selma-curriculum-guide

We’ve put up a page on the district’s website – for more information about theaters and show times for this weekend visit www.atlantapublicschools.us/selma or follow the Twitter hashtag #selmaforstudents.