Learning While Black: Community forum

Community members came together on Thursday, March 21, for a forum and roundtable discussion of what it takes to navigate San Francisco Unified School District’s Special Education system and to develop an action plan to support African American students with learning differences.

The event took place at the African American Art and Culture Complex. It was hosted by SFUSD’s African American Parent Advisory Council and Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, and cosponsored by 100% College Prep, Bayview MAGIC, Black to the Future, Coleman Advocates, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, KALW, and Support for Families of Children with Disabilities. About 200 parents, educators, community organizers, activists, advocates, and school officials including SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews attended.

San Francisco Human Rights Commission Executive Director Sheryl Evans Davis gave opening remarks, discussing how the treatment of African American students has long lasting consequences. She called for attendees to continue the discussion beyond this event.

Five people took part in a panel discussion about African American education experiences in SFUSD. One was Darryl Lester, the main plaintiff in the landmark Special Education case Larry P vs. California. Others discussed challenges they face in advocating for their children.

The event also included lively roundtable discussions and a resource fair featuring many of the events cosponsors. Childcare and translation services were provided.

It was inspired by reporting by KALW's Lee Romney, who is spending the school year exploring the experiences of African American students and families for an ongoing series Learning While Black: The Fight for Equity in San Francisco Schools.

[This story was originally published by KALW.]