Reproductive Justice and Our Classrooms

There is no end-point in the fight for justice and equality, no moment when the argument is finally settled. As Angela Davis has said, “Freedom is a constant struggle.” Although that proposition seems exhausting, it is also hopeful. If our wins are never wholly secure, then neither must our losses be permanent. The struggle for reproductive justice continues, and our curriculum must nurture our students’ capacity to envision and participate in its next stages.

bell hooks: Learning as Revolution

hooks’ influence on social justice education was so immense and so longstanding that we may not even recognize all the ways she touched our vision of the world — and our classrooms.

Exploring Women’s Rights

A first-grade teacher uses the 1908 Bread and Roses textile strike to help her students understand International Women’s Day.

Women of the Day

A high school teacher looks at how a daily activity focusing on the representation of women helped transform her classroom.

Queering Black History and Getting Free

A Black freedom organizer demands that teachers and activists radically change their frameworks around Black history by lifting up the stories of Black LGBTQ people like Marsha P. Johnson.

#SchoolsToo: Educators’ Responsibility to Confront Sexual Violence

The ongoing, persistent verbal and physical violence against women, youth, and LGBTQ communities has not been adequately addressed in most schools. Instead of educating children and youth about gender equity and sexual harassment, schools often create a culture that perpetuates stigma, shame, and silence. Student-on-student sexual assault and harassment occurs on playgrounds, in bathrooms and locker rooms, on buses, and down isolated school hallways. Students experience sexualized language and inappropriate touching, as well as forced sexual acts. And they encounter these at formative stages of their lives that leave scars and shape expectations for a lifetime. What isn’t addressed critically in schools becomes normalized and taken for granted.

The Women of Juárez

at the West tip of Texas
a line divides us from them
and on the other side
they all look like me
yet on my side we sit passively nearby
while the other side allows a slow genocide

What Students Are Capable Of

“We have something to tell you but we’re worried about getting you too involved. We don’t want to get you in trouble,” Baylee and Zaida whispered excitedly as they wiggled through the crack in my classroom door on my prep. I was confused to see them in such high spirits because earlier in the day they had been crushed by news from our administration. For more than two months they had been part of our Restorative Justice club that had been planning two half-day workshops around women empowerment for female-identifying students and toxic masculinity for male-identifying students. The club of 11 demographically diverse students had been urging adults in our building to do something about sexual harassment since October, when they made sexual assault and harassment their Restorative Justice club theme of the month and visited 9th grade classes to lead circles on the topic. This opened up a door for 9th graders to continue to reach out to upperclassmen about the harassment they were facing.

“How Could You Let This Happen?”

I was just about to finish my second year teaching 2nd grade. It was the first week of June and school was quickly coming to a close. The sun was out and everyone’s energy was extraordinarily high. We were in Seattle after all; when the sun comes around, you rejoice. One morning that week I came to work and noticed I had an email from a parent. This was a parent I had a good relationship with, and she often checked in to see how her daughter was doing. But this email was different. The mother explained that her daughter had been cornered at recess the previous day by some boys who were also 2nd graders. The boys grabbed, groped, and humped her. They told her they were going to have sex with her. Her daughter told them to stop and to leave her alone, but they persisted. As this sweet one told her story of shame, confusion, and hurt to her family later that day, she became so upset that she threw up in the car. Her mother knew this wasn’t a miscommunication or misunderstanding.

“Young Women Like Me”

Since 1993, the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez has been shaken by disappearances of teenage girls and young women. Officials say they have few leads. The murders in Juárez have received some international attention, primarily due to government inaction. Yet little has been done by the government to prevent violence against women and girls, as officials neglect to bring their perpetrators to justice.

Residents do not let these deaths go unnoticed as hundreds of pink crosses — a symbol of these missing women — dot the border. An increase in these deaths coincided with the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A treaty between Mexico, the United States, and Canada, NAFTA sought to increase investment opportunities by eliminating tariffs and, like many other economic agreements, benefited the economic elites of the three countries while resulting in widespread unemployment, increased class stratification, and mass emigration. Most of the “disappeared” women work in assembly plants or maquiladoras, owned by the United States and transnational corporations that dashed to northern Mexico post-NAFTA to reap the benefits of lower wages and lax environmental regulation.

#MeToo and The Color Purple

During a recent conversation, a former high school classmate said, “I always wondered why you left Eureka. I heard that something shameful happened, but I never knew what it was.”

Yes, something shameful happened. My former husband beat me in front of the Catholic Church in downtown Eureka. He tore hunks of hair from my scalp, broke my nose, and battered my body. It wasn’t the first time during the nine months of our marriage. When he fell into a drunken sleep, I found the keys he used to keep me locked inside and I fled, wearing a bikini and a bloodied white fisherman’s sweater. For those nine months I had lived in fear of his hands, of drives into the country where he might kill me and bury my body. I lived in fear that if I fled, he might harm my mother or my sister.

I carried that fear and shame around for years. Because even though I left the marriage and the abuse, people said things like “I’d never let some man beat me.” There was no way to tell them the whole story: How growing up and “getting a man” was the goal, how making a marriage work was my responsibility, how failure was a stigma I couldn’t bear.

Baby Mamas in Literature and Life

Inspired by students’ responses to her own pregnancy, a high school English teacher develops a unit based on teen pregnancy and motherhood—rejecting the usual deficit-based narrative of teen parenting.

The Hidden Agenda of High School Assemblies

A high school teacher realizes that, despite her school’s diverse student body, the students on the stage at assemblies are virtually all white and male. She sets out to understand why and to change the pattern.

Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality book cover

Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality

Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality is a collection of inspiring stories about how to integrate feminist and LGBTQ content into curriculum, make it part of a vision for social justice, […]