Popular Seattle Teacher Forced Out for Teaching Kids About Racism
As a senior at Seattle’s Center School, an alternative arts intensive public high school with a stellar academic performance record, Zak Meyer was thrilled to land a spot in Jon Greenberg’s “Citizenship and Social Justice” class.
Space in Greenberg’s popular humanities class is coveted. Hundreds of current and former pupils credit the teacher with creating a curriculum that is “life-changing,” “highly transformative,” and “a highlight of lots of students’ time at the school.”
It turned out to be everything Meyer had hoped for.
“We’ve been diving into stuff that I will be dealing with in my freshman year of college, and getting deeply into issues of our society,” Meyer told the Seattle Post Intelligencer. “I am a minority in that I have a disability. The course preaches tolerance of all backgrounds. It opens the world to me, not just from my point of view but in understanding the views of others...”
Students study speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and invite local community leaders to speak in the class. They are prompted to talk honestly about racism, class disparity, and privilege in their day-to-day lives at the start of every session. Assignments include analyzing “the way media and society fetishize both women and people of color.”
But the provocative discussions that Meyer found so revelatory abruptly ended a few months ago when a female white student accused the teacher of creating an “intimidating educational environment.”
The Seattle School Board agreed and have decided to transfer Greenberg to another school next year. The board also banned future use of the Courageous Conversations teaching method employed by Greenberg to address issues of race and gender.
The structure of the curriculum has been an integral part of Greenberg’s class for the last decade.
District officials have revealed little about the nature of the complaint. The parents who filed the grievance against Greenberg have remained silent about what their daughter found offensive.
Seattle Schools Superintendent Jose Banda said, moving forward, parents need to be told ahead of time if a classroom activity could cause “a high degree of emotion for students or potential distress.”
A statement released by the district said: “Seattle Public Schools strongly believes that race and social justice should be taught in our schools. These are important conversations for our students and staff. But we don’t want to put any child into a situation where he or she feels so intimidated by the manner in which these issues are being taught that the course is no longer effective.”