A rally in Milton yesterday sought to call attention to educational racism after a middle school teacher was briefly placed on administrative leave from a statement in a recent lesson.
Pierce Middle School teacher Zakia Jarrett said she had been teaching a lesson around racism and poetry, specifically on the 1925 poem “I to.”
“I said many that many cops are racist and somebody videoed 13 seconds of my lesson and distributed it to a lot of people,” Jarrett said.
While the district reversed its decision to place her on leave the same day, Jarrett and hundreds of protesters questioned why any such action was taken in the first place.
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“It made me feel as though maybe this school district is not the right place for an educator like me,” Jarrett said.
Some of the town's former students of color said that they recognized the feeling of ostracization.
“From being in classes where I was one of the few Black people and really feeling like I had to speak a certain type of way had to act a certain type of way those little things they go a long way,” Milton High School graduate Phillip Jean Vierre said.
Friday’s rally, hosted by the Milton Educators Association (MEA), Courageous Conversations Toward Racial Justice and Milton for Social Justice, began at Kelly Field with an address from Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy. Hundreds of educators, students, parents and community leaders gathered to march for racial justice on Juneteenth, a commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States celebrated across the country.
In a statement from the MEA on Friday, the organization wrote, “The MEA found the district’s response to not only be insulting to Ms. Jarrett and her professionalism, but also indicative of the systemic racism with which the entire country is grappling. Furthermore, the district's handling of the situation compromised the safety of an educator.”
The teacher’s union has also demanded an apology from the district. A group of 400 people signed a letter to the middle school’s principal and district superintendent supporting Jarrett.