Toolkit for "Teaching in Solidarity"

This curated reading list gives educators and students an opportunity to explore the themes of the 2019 Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action through picture books, poetry, non-fiction essays and literature.


This toolkit for "Teaching in Solidarity" is a curated reading list that gives educators and students an opportunity to explore the themes of the 2019 Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action through picture books, poetry, non-fiction essays and literature. 



The Black Lives Matter at School website has lesson plans and resources to help educators map out their week of action. Educators are invited to build the framework for their lessons and activities based on the 13 guiding principles. Additionally, the 2019 Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action includes the following demands: 

  • End zero tolerance; 
  • Mandate Black history and ethnic studies; 
  • Hire more Black teachers and 
  • Fund counselors—not cops. 

This curated reading list for educators and students build upon these demands


Essential Questions

  • How can texts invite both educators and students into action to end zero-tolerance discipline policies? 
  • How can texts be used to underscore the importance of teaching Black history and ethnic studies? 
  • How can texts invite school leaders into action to hire more Black teachers and bring counselors into schools?
  • How can texts help us understand and act on the demands made by the Black Lives Matter at School movement? 


Reading Syllabus 

End Zero Tolerance

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

In this young-adult adaptation of his book, Bryan Stevenson details his experiences working as a death penalty lawyer in rural Alabama and illuminates the inequity rooted in the foundation of our criminal justice system. 

Use it to:

  • Discuss the idea that we are all more than the worst thing we have ever done.
  • Analyze the disproportionate number of Nlack children targeted by zero-tolerance policies.
  • Understand how zero-tolerance policies rely on the presumption of dangerousness.


“A Talk to Teachers” by James Baldwin

In Baldwin’s lecture “A Talk to Teachers,” he discusses the purpose of socialization and schooling by proposing the idea that society desires citizens who simply obey the rules. 

Use it to:

  • Discuss the purpose of zero-tolerance policies and their impact on school safety and climate.
  • Analyze the methods and outcomes of discipline and punishment in the classroom and school.
  • Understand the function of classrooms and schools as microcosms of our larger social structure. 


Mandate Black History and Ethnic Studies

Precious Knowledge

This film chronicles the fight for ethnic studies in Arizona after the Arizona State Board of Education decided to remove Mexican American Studies from the curriculum.

Use it to:

  • Discuss who is represented in state, national and world histories. 
  • Analyze how students and teachers work together to meet the needs of the community. 
  • Understand the significance of teaching and learning comprehensive and culturally relevant history. 


This Is the Rope by Jacqueline Woodson

In this short picture book, Woodson depicts the historical significance of a rope that has followed her family from South Carolina to New York City during the Great Migration. 

Use it to:

  • Discuss how cultural traditions keep families connected throughout history.
  • Analyze why many Black families left Southern communities.
  • Understand how Black communities have encountered different challenges and new opportunities.


Hire More Black Teachers

“Black Teachers Matter” by Kristina Rizga

In this article for Mother Jones, Rizga discusses the power and significance of Black educators by sharing the story of a Philadelphia public school and the surrounding community.

Use it to:

  • Discuss the relationships among community organizers, community leaders and schools.
  • Analyze the shifting racial demographics of teachers in public schools.


“A Root Cause of the Teacher Diversity Problem” by Melinda D. Anderson 

In this article for The Atlantic, Anderson provides a possible explanation for the lack of Black educators in public school classrooms.

Use it to:

  • Discuss how schools are working to eliminate racial disparities in test scores by hiring Black educators.
  • Analyze the racial demographics of students in public schools compared to teachers in public schools.
  • Understand the hiring and retention practices of your school and district.


Counselors Not Cops

Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty

In this picture book, Beaty illustrates how family separations affect children’s development and disrupt healthy parent-child bonding and relationships.

Use it to:

  • Discuss the social emotional impact of incarceration on children and their families.
  • Analyze how incarceration disproportionately impacts families of color and working-class families.
  • Understand how incarceration affects students, families, schools and the entire community.


“Teaching About Mass Incarceration” by Rebecca Coven

In this article for Teaching Tolerance, Coven discusses how she utilized the prosecution and activism of rapper Meek Mill to discuss mass incarceration with her students.

Use it to:

  • Discuss the power of pop culture icons in shaping public discourse around mass incarceration.
  • Analyze and compare the resources invested in policing and counseling in your school.
  • Understand the importance of teaching hard history, including the history of mass incarceration.


Additional Resources

Closing the Diversity Gap 

Code of Conduct: A Guide to Responsive Discipline

*This article was revised 1/24/2022 to capitalize the word Black.

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