A Shared Struggle in the Crisis – Standing Up for Racial Justice and Equity

Statement from Dr. Meria Carstarphen
Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools

All of us in Atlanta Public Schools have been left saddened and heartbroken with the civil unrest and challenging times we are facing in our community and across this nation. Amid our efforts to cope with a global pandemic, we now must confront the hurt, pain, disappointment, and other emotions that have resurfaced about the racial injustice crisis following the alarming and tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and others. We are 52,000 students and  6,000 staff members strong. With caregivers and parents, the APS community stands at easily more than 100,000 good people who can make a difference. Let me be clear, we can all do something to dismantle systemic racism because black lives matter.

Students at Booker T. Washington silently protest gun violence in March 2018

Our district has supported  peaceful demonstrations against gun violence and climate change. It has stood with students and staff, embracing their leadership and growth in civic engagement and the meaningful impact it can have on social change. We have encouraged activism that follows city and state directives and heeds the words of one of this community’s most cherished civil rights icons, Representative John Lewis: “Be constructive, not destructive. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way.”   

Grady students rallied for gun safety

As a district, we continue to support students and employees who exercise their First Amendment rights to engage in peaceful protest and to petition our government for redress of grievances. We have ensured  them that the District will not take adverse action against any employee arrested for engaging in peaceful protest. We have strongly encouraged them to follow the law and protocols if they decide to engage in protests or demonstrations outside of work hours or on personal time.

The Atlanta Board of Education stands in support as well as it wrote in its own statement that “the work of dismantling a racist and oppressive system that has an over 400-year legacy will not be easy and requires people of all communities coming together to address inequities.”

Such a position follows ongoing efforts in Atlanta Public Schools to do its part in effecting change and to putting an end to racial injustice and inequities.

Hundreds of North Atlanta High students walked out of school on Sept. 26, 2019, in protest about climate change

Through the development of the District’s new strategic plan and our work to implement a new equity policy, APS is committed to acknowledging and addressing the impacts of systemic racism on our education system. We are focused on creating a diverse and inclusive workplace that uplifts everyone’s unique voice and values the input and engagement of the community. We are taking a stand and implementing actions that uphold racial justice and equity.

These actions at the District level signal the need for each of us as individuals and as a community to become active participants in this change, ensuring every decision we make is in the best interest of our students and is sharpened through the lens of equity.

Although we are apart, we are in this together! We will find strength as we find our way through this as a school community!

Some APS students and recent graduates who are working with me on equity and unity projects: Allison Hunter and Tyrese Miller of South Atlanta High; Kaylee Spiver of North Atlanta High; Amadou Bah and Qwantayvious Stiggers of B.E.S.T. Academy; and Shaun Kleber of Grady High

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