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Summer Institute helps teachers, community members support Black students

Workshops taking place at Palm Beach Lakes High School in West Palm Beach
Teachers and community members attend the 'African, African American, and Caribbean Studies Summer Institute' at Palm Beach Lakes High School in West Palm Beach on June 20, 2022.jpg
Posted at 8:46 PM, Jun 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 20:46:02-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Educators and community members are coming together in Palm Beach County to learn more about supporting Black students in the classroom.

It's the "African, African American, and Caribbean Studies Summer Institute" at Palm Beach Lakes High School in West Palm Beach.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education

The Summer Institute is back in-person after being virtual for the past two years. This is something that happens every year in the School District of Palm Beach County, but it's taking on more meaning this time because of new Florida laws set to take effect in less than two weeks.

Teachers and community members are the students this week, learning through a series of workshops how to better reach all kids.

"Making sure we preserve the history of African Americans and making sure we address the needs of not only Black children, but all children," said Brian Knowles, the manager of the Office of African, African American, Latino, Holocaust, and Gender Studies for the School District of Palm Beach County.

Knowles helps put on this event at the school district, and said with the current climate bringing politics into the classroom and laws changing on July 1, these sessions are more important than ever.

"Some of the new laws actually expand the teaching of African American history," Knowles said. "A lot of people don't understand. There are some parts we may not agree with. And I think as a school district that we are making sure that having these forums are ways to support and help our teachers navigate through new legislation and make sure we can continue to share our stories in a way that is appropriate for all of our students."

One new law known as the "Individual Freedom" measure bans educators from teaching certain topics related to race and is designed to prevent teachers from making students feel guilt or shame about their race because of historical events.

Knowles hopes this week helps clear up some of the misunderstanding and confusion.

"Mitigate some of the fears our educators are having in how to deal with it," Knowles said. "To kind of build that confidence and ease some of the fears so we can continue to work."

Dr. Clarence Walker teaches social studies at Suncoast High School in Riviera Beach. He's hoping to bring some new tools and tactics back to his classroom.

"In our diverse world where we have contact with students from many different experiences and many different backgrounds, it's vitally important that we know as much as we do about their history, about their culture, to positively interact with them," Walker said.

As far as the new laws coming on the books, Walker said he won't let it stop him from doing his job.

"I'm just going to do what I've always been doing. Reaching those kids, giving them all that I've got and more," Walker said.

There will be events all week at Palm Beach Lakes High School. For more information about the "African, African American, and Caribbean Studies Summer Institute," click here.