Black Lives Matter at School is an annual week-long protest and educational event held each February since 2017. Participating school administrators and teachers organize coordinated walk-outs and lessons to support the Black Lives Matter movement while educating students on the movement’s doctrine and goals.
BLM at School organizers produce textbooks and guides for the annual events. These materials portray the US and its education system as systematically racist against Black Americans and encourage schools to adopt left-wing and affirmative action-based education reforms.
The first school-focused Black Lives Matter activism occurred in Seattle in the Fall of 2016. Starting the previous year, John Muir Elementary School had instituted new curriculum components focused on “privilege and the politics of race.” After the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police in July 2016, the school staff read an article supplied by Black Lives Matter activists to students, and the school’s art teacher began producing Black Lives Matters t-shirts for students and staff. A local television station reported on these activities, which prompted alleged harassment by email and phone calls from right-wing sources. On September 13, a bomb threat was called into the school.
Three days later, dozens of students, staff, and faculty of John Muir Elementary stood outside the school during operating hours with “Black Lives Matter” signs and shirts for a “Black Lives Matter at School Day” protest. Over the following month, activist teachers and administrators throughout Seattle organized a city-wide Black Lives Matter protest in schools. On October 19, thousands of students, teachers, and parents participated in the protest and engaged in educational workshops and discussion groups based on Black Lives Matter principles. The event had the support of the Seattle Education Association, the city’s largest teachers’ union.
In January 2017, a week-long version of the BLM at School protest occurred in Philadelphia under the leadership of the Caucus of Working Educators’ Racial Justice Committee, a group within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union. About 100 schools participated.
During the 2017-2018 school year, Black Lives Matter at School became a national movement with week-long events held in twenty cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Black Lives Matter at School proposes four major policy planks:
- Ending “zero tolerance” policies which expel or suspend students for single disciplinary infractions;
- Instituting policies to promote the hiring of black teachers;
- Mandating black history and ethnic studies courses in K-12 curriculums; and
- Increasing funding for school counselors and support programs.
On December 17, 2018, Black Lives Matter at School launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for a documentary on the goals of the BLM movement in education. The fundraiser was closed after only raising $1,923, but a link to the page remains on BLM at School’s website as of June 2020.
In August 2019, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor Peter Myers criticized Black Lives Matter at School in a New York Post op-ed for stoking “fear” and “anger” in students by discussing legitimate issues in a needlessly inflammatory manner. The author quoted a textbook issued by BLM at School, which made unsupported inflammatory assertions about the controversial police-shooting death of Michael Brown:
“In August of 2014, Michael Brown was killed in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, his body left in the streets for hours as a reminder to the black residents in the neighborhood that their lives are meaningless to the American Empire.”
Further, Myers argued that BLM at School is designed to indoctrinate students into radicalism, suppress opposing viewpoints, and induce a fatalistic outlook on the United States.
In 2021, a report card of various educational contractors and consultants was released by Parents Defending Education (PDE). The report listed consultants that work with schools implementing Critical Race Theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion curriculums and policies. Black Lives Matter at School was included in the report. PDE stated that, while their researchers had not found any actual contracts between school districts and Black Lives Matters at School, “it’s important for parents to understand that Black Lives Matter is being taught in schools, particularly through the Black Lives Matter at School program.”