Teaching Racial Justice

  • Updated April 2021

    A year ago, as a nation, we watched the murder of George Floyd coupled with numerous lives lost at the hands of police officers across the nation. A year later, our nation is in a continuous state of emotional distress and unrest as we continue to experience similar acts of extreme violence and more death. With the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, it is imperative to take the time to process emotions, educate ourselves and open the lines of communication with our children. Racial justice can only be achieved through the acknowledgement, understanding and willingness to challenge injustices. Alexandria City Public Schools is committed to valuing the diversity and identity of all of our students and we encourage our staff and families to use the resources listed on our Teaching Racial Justice and Talking to Your Children About Racial Justice websites, as well as the additional resources listed below to support our students.

    We are a school community dedicated to supporting our students, staff and families to make sense of our unfortunate reality. If your child wants to speak with someone, please reach out to our student support team made up of the school counselor, school nurse, school psychologist, and school social worker at your school. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Department of Student Services and Equity at 703-619-8034 or student_services@acps.k12.va.us.



    Updated Spring 2021

    Sadly, we are faced with the realities of racism in our nation. The media reports a 150% increase in hate crimes against the Asian-American Community and the recent tragic events in Atlanta, Georgia continue to remind us of the work we must do to acknowledge, educate and support conversations of bias, anti-hate and anti-racism. Once again, we are enduring the senseless deaths of Americans motivated by race. Racism against the Asian-American community is deeply ingrained in the fabric of our country and continues to validate the anti-racist journey of ACPS. Therefore, we want to remind you of the resources already provided on this web page for Teaching Racial Justice and provide additional resources that can help to support talking to students about race, racism and the anti-Asian hate currently plaguing our community. 

    As always, thank you for helping our students, staff and community make sense of our unfortunate reality. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Department of Student Services and Equity.  

    Cheryl Robinson, Cultural Competence Coordinator

    Kennetra Wood, Executive Director of Equity and Alternative Programs

    Dr. Julie Crawford, Chief of Student Services and Equity




    Updated Spring 2020

    In light of the reactions to the most recent publicized murders of Black Americans to include Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, we believe it is imperative to talk about and provide guidance relative to addressing students’ questions about current events, race and racism. Our students have questions that we can artfully address; and, this is our opportunity to model life-long learning as we continue to develop our own abilities to have and hold conversations with students, colleagues and community members to improve educational outcomes for every student group. 
    We, as a nation, are once again experiencing the results of our failure to have and sustain conversations across racial lines about the policies and practices that result in different lived experiences for many members of our society. Educational equity addresses disparities based on race, economics and other dimensions of difference. When ACPS achieves educational equity school outcomes will be proportionally distributed across all demographic and identity groups and achievement gaps will be eliminated for all  groups. Equity can be achieved by promoting relationships and nurturing the capability of students, families and staff. The goal of educational equity is helping students to thrive. Equity is aspirational and something that none of us has ever experienced: however, it can be achieved when we each do our part. 

    These resources are provided in three parts: 

    • Part 1 - Strategies for Facilitating Conversations with Students
    • Part 2 - Online Resources for Framing Conversations 
    • Part 3 - Resources for Your Personal and Professional Growth and Development                                                                                                                                                                                ° °Links and references for podcasts, video, books and articles are included        

    Using the strategies and resources below can create meaningful, authentic communication between staff and students. This in turn can help schools, classrooms and communities to learn, recognize and model more equitable practices.

    Thank you for helping our students, staff and community make sense of our unfortunate reality. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Department of Student Services and Equity.  
    Cheryl Robinson, Cultural Competence Coordinator

    Kennetra Wood, Executive Director of Equity and Alternative Programs 

    Dr. Julie Crawford, Chief Student of Services and Equity

    Part 1:  Strategies for Facilitating Conversations with Students: 

    When questions arise from students using the strategies below can be effective. 

    Model Respect   

    • Establish norms for conversations such as sharing your own truth, respecting the perspectives of others, and sharing the space.
    • Give wait time, at least 7-10 seconds before and after each response.
    • Thank every student for their contribution.
    • Give every student a chance to voice their thoughts, experiences or feelings.
    • Listen, without judgement, pretext or the goal of providing a response.
    • Show respect for the beliefs, customs and practices of students and families.
    • Practice grace and patience with yourself and your students.

    Be comfortable with not having the answer (This is a genuine opportunity to shift from being the sage on the stage to the guide on the side.)

    • Assume that every student is an expert regarding their experiences
    • Ask open ended questions                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   °What else are you thinking?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             °Who else will share their ideas?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     °Why do you think ...?
    • Use questions that challenge students to imagine a better world, a world where students see their roles in achieving that vision                                                                                                              

    Be open to learning with and from your students

    • Use data from reliable and researched sources to help students identify trends and patterns                                                                                             
    • Model enthusiasm, openness and curiosity
    • Use what you learn from your conversations with students to improve instruction

    Be mindful of implicit bias    

    • Recognize and actively work to put aside your preconceptions
    • Be open to the fact that you may engage in behaviors and practices that inhibit equity about which you are unaware

    Part 2: Online Resources for Framing Conversations
    Articles to support conversations about recent race events: 

    ‘Moments like now are why we teach’: Educators tackle tough conversations about race and violence — this time virtually by Reema Amin, Caroline Bauman, and Stephanie Wang  
    What Teachers Should Learn From the Murder of George Floyd by Larry Feriazzo

    Articles to support conversations about race: 

    Part 3: Resources for Your Personal and Professional Growth and Development 


    • Teaching While White (White teachers talk about whiteness and schooling) 
    • Outrageous Love the Podcast: Our Journeys to Responsiveness with Sharroky Hollie (Offers strategies that empower teachers to engage students through culturally relevant, challenging and engaging curriculum) 
    • The 1619 Project (The New York Times produced articles that are available on podcast and reexamine slavery and its legacy) 
    • Leading Equity (Over 100 sessions with leading experts on equity in classrooms for  administrators)
    • Visible learning with John Hattie (According to the author: Visible learning occurs when there is deliberate practice aimed at attaining mastery of the goal, when there is feedback given and sought, and when there are active, passionate, and engaging people (teacher, students, peers) participating in the act of learning)
    • Jim Knight  (How to have meaningful conversations and a soup to nuts array of presentations on student learning, teacher efficacy, communication PLC’s and more)
    • John Powell's  (Podcasts address this foundational question to open pathways to explore a range of policies, movements, scholarship, and narratives that get us closer to the goal, which is to advance a society where all belong)
    • The Uncomfortable Truth (How do you end racism if you're too afraid to talk about it? Emmy-winning filmmaker, Loki Mulholland continues the conversation started in his award-winning film, "The Uncomfortable Truth", to learn the answers to the questions we all need to be asking about race and racism in America.)
    • Speak Out (Speak Out with Tim Wise is an informative and entertaining podcast focused on racial and economic justice in the age of Trump.)
    • Teaching Hard History From Teaching Tolerance and host Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Teaching Hard History brings us the lessons we should have learned in school through the voices of leading scholars and educators. It’s good advice for teachers, good information for everybody.)

    Reading for Personal Background Knowledge Building: A Deeper Dive 

    • Building the Federal Schoolhouse: Localism and the American Education State by Douglas Reed (Provides details about the Alexandria VA experience in public education)
    • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race revised by Beverly Daniel Tatum
    • White Rage by Carol Anderson
    • How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi
    • So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Olou
    • White Fragility by Robin Diangelo 

    Building Instructional Practice 

    • Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms by Richard Milner 
    • Anti-bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves by Louise Derman Sparks and Julia Olsen
    • For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and the Rest of Y'all Too by Cristopher Emdin 
    • We Got This by Cornelius Minor (A former ACPS teacher)
    • Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond 
    • Teaching for Change 
    • Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) Pre K-12 Anti-bias Framework
    • Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) Anti Bias Curriculum


    Recent Articles to build equity awareness


    Cheryl Robinson
    Cultural Competency Coordinator
    Alexandria City Public Schools
    1340 Braddock Place
    Alexandria, VA 22314

    Kennetra Wood 
    Director of Alternative Programs & Equity
    Alexandria City Public Schools
    1340 Braddock Place
    Alexandria, VA 22314

    Dr. Julie Crawford
    Chief Student Services Officer
    Alexandria City Public Schools
    1340 Braddock Place
    Alexandria, VA 22314