School District of Philadelphia plans district-wide effort to combat racism

School District of Philadelphia
Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio, file
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)  The School District of Philadelphia is planning a top-to-bottom effort to confront racism that includes teacher training and curriculum changes.

As a national conversation about race plays out, Superintendent William Hite said now is the time to combat racism in Philadelphia schools. 

Not only are district employees receiving anti-racism training, he said, but the curriculum is being rewritten, starting with history courses.

"To understand cultures as it relates to the local area and to Black and multicultural history in a way that it has not been related before," Hite said.

Hite told reporters the district will be examining admissions policies at magnet schools with an eye toward equity. 

Seventy-three percent of district students are Black and brown, while two-thirds of teachers are white.  

Estelle Acquah, the director of special projects for the district's Office of Leadership Development and Evaluation, said conversations about race will be happening districtwide.

"We know that our students are listening. They're talking about this, they're talking about the impact of race and racism on their lives," she said. 

Acquah said the initiative is an effort to eliminate systemic racism in schools and to confront biases in the hearts and minds of staff and students.

"We're looking at what policy changes we may need to make as a system, but also how we address every worker in our system's thoughts and beliefs and behavior," she said.

The district is forming what it calls an Equity Coalition to propose policy changes.​