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Wilmington City Council wants fairer, more inclusive school system

Delaware Public Media

Wilmington City Council adopted three resolutions last week that seek to support the city’s increasingly diverse school-aged population.


One of the three resolutions sponsored by Council President Hanifa Shabazz encourages Wilmington-area school districts to adopt K-12 Ethnic Studies curriculums to help kids learn about the world through the lens of traditionally marginalized groups.

The resolution argues more than half the students in districts serving the City of Wilmington are students of color, and that the dominance of Euro-American perspectives in school curriculums can lead some students to disengage from academic learning.

Atnre Alleyne, of local education non-profit DelawareCAN, says his organization advocates for ‘culturally competent’ education.

That includes making sure educators are aware of their own potential racial biases, and incorporating diverse authors, scholars and historical figures into their everyday classes.

“A curriculum where the students can see themselves in the curriculum, their background, their history, the greatness of the people that they come from,” he said.

Alleyne says teacher preparation programs at local universities have the potential to develop cultural competence in Delaware educators, and that Department of Ed regulations should help encourage this.

Another resolution adopted by the Council last week recommends the prohibition of expulsions and suspensions for kids in pre-K through second grade.

The legislation says that while pre-K to second grade enrollment in Delaware has dropped slightly in recent years, the number of suspensions for this age group has increased.

It also cites national data showing African American children are suspended at disproportionately high rates.

Alleyne says early suspensions can have lasting effects on students.

“One they’re you know missing out on good time to learn and engage,” he said. “Then you’re also giving them this adversarial relationship with the education system.”

He says this can depress graduation rates and fuel what he calls the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

A third resolution adopted by the Council focuses on bringing to light the needs of the area’s trauma-affected children.

Alleyne supports the resolutions passed last week in Wilmington, but is unsure how much of an effect they will have.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.