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Petition to implement education on systematic racism and police brutality in Marlborough curricula

Beginning with the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man shot by a white police officer  in late May, a historic fight for racial justice has unfolded over the past few months. From removing racially charged statues to instating criminal justice reforms, citizens across the country have been calling for a widespread reexamination of discriminatory practices and structures. However, this fight is not confined to national legislation; students within the Marlborough community have been calling for change as well. 

In particular, Elizabeth ‘21 collaborated with a few friends to draft a petition for a more diverse and inclusive history curriculum. She was inspired after seeing a similar petition to change the Harvard Westlake curriculum on a friend’s Instagram. Elizabeth utilized some of the core ideas from the Harvard Westlake petition whilst tailoring it to Marlborough’s specific issues to create her own. 

“We want our administration to be constantly improving our curriculum by ensuring that students are being taught transparent, complex history, specifically highlighting underprivileged and underrepresented voices,” Elizabeth said. 

Courtesy of Elizabeth Suby

More specific immediate changes include a more diverse list of reformers for the 7th grade reformers project (a project focused around studying a variety of historical change-makers) and the creation of “Departmental Norms” for the history department to help ensure classes are equitable and safe for all students. 100% of the department’s faculty are participating in training that focuses on teaching to diverse groups of students. The department is also working on preventing and effectively responding to microaggressions and insensitive incidents that occur in the classroom. History Department Head Jonathon Allen has created a list of terms to avoid in historical discussions and teachers are working on strategies to intervene in potentially upsetting situations. 

Additionally, the department is adding Ms. Marshall to the roster as a new United States History teacher. She has a background in Ethnic Studies and a degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. 

According to Mr. Allen, “She is excited to widen the aperture of U.S. History instruction at Marlborough, and both her experience and perspective will revitalize our 10th-grade courses on American History.” 

Regardless of the progress, they have made, Suby still has longer-term plans and goals in mind. “These actions and many more are the first immediate changes that have taken place. Our long term goal is to be constantly sufficiently addressing issues and situations as they arise in the future,” Elizabeth said. 

However, Elizabeth’s impressive work was not accomplished on her own. She worked closely with Tommie ‘21 (All School President) and Sonora ‘21 (President of AACE) to create the petition and reach out to crucial faculty members. The group also reached out to Allen for help throughout the process who, according to Suby, “has since been exceedingly helpful, considerate, and open-minded throughout the process.” 

Allen added that “With an extremely tense and divisive general election approaching, a global pandemic that continues to threaten our way of life, and the persistent racism that many of this country seem oblivious to or outright deny, the History Department is under the microscope more than ever… and we are rising to the challenge. Have we fallen short? Absolutely. Are we whole-heartedly committed to making meaningful change for our students? Absolutely.” 

In the future, Suby hopes to work with the English department and to continue to diversify curriculum throughout the school.  

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