Center School students accept their mayoral proclamation and award.
  • Anna Minard
  • Center School students accept their mayoral proclamation and award.
Last night at City Hall, the Seattle Human Services Coalition held their annual awards ceremony. Surrounded by chocolates and punch and little bowls of flowers, some of the city’s most hardworking advocates for social justice got plaques from city officials and gave speeches about their work.

Among them were a cohort of students from the Center School who have been fighting the Seattle school district since spring to keep a beloved curriculum on race and social justice, and the teacher of the class, at their school.

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The human services coalition gave their mayor's award to the Center School community for mobilizing a forceful response to the district’s suspension of the curriculum earlier this year after a parent complaint—and for fighting the muzzling of controversial portions of it after the district reinstated the class.

Because it’s the mayor's award, it was given by Mayor McGinn himself and accompanied by a signed mayoral proclamation, which said that "Seattle is battling inequality in our schools" and "we need to have more discussion in our schools about race, not less." It concluded: "I applaud the Center School Community for their dedication and perseverance, and I agree with them that the Social Justice Curriculum should continue at The Center School."

The students accepting the award on behalf of their school and their teacher have been thoughtful and eloquent throughout this process; tonight they seemed a little tired. Beaming, and proud, but tired. Maybe because they know now that the district will transfer the teacher they've been fighting for, Jon Greenberg, to a middle school next year, despite an outpouring of support for him from the school’s teachers, parents, students, alumni, and the community—like the Human Services Coalition.

After getting their award and shaking hands with the mayor, they made one more big statement. A student said to the room: "We ask everyone in support of keeping this curriculum at Center School to come stand with us." And the banquet tables emptied, as virtually the entire room swarmed up to the front to stand with the students.

Center School students have always known how to take a stand on issues that matter. Here’s hoping that the district will someday learn to respect them—instead of punishing them—for it.

UPDATE: Here's the full text of the mayoral proclamation:

Whereas, Seattle is battling inequality in our schools, long-standing and institutional discrepancies that present real challenges to students and educators alike; and

Whereas, students of color and those from lower income backgrounds continue to suffer from unequal outcomes, suggesting that we need to have more discussion in our schools about race, not less; and

Whereas, these courageous conversations encourage students to take action in the real world, and are therefore essential to achieving a more equitable society; and

Whereas, the Center School Community has worked tirelessly over the last year to support the Social Justice Curriculum and promote the idea that classrooms need to be a place for challenging conversations, transformative curriculums, and inclusive dialogue; and

Whereas, I applaud the Center School Community for their dedication and perseverance, and I agree with them that the Social Justice Curriculum should continue at The Center School;

Now, therefore, I, Mike McGinn, Mayor of the City of Seattle, do hereby proclaim June 13, 2013 to be Center School Community Day in the City of Seattle, and I encourage all Seattleites to consider the importance of courageous conversations in enacting change within our community and the larger world.