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Palm Beach County to offer course on racism, discrimination to middle school students

Class to be offered as elective
Posted at 6:09 AM, Aug 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-10 10:30:51-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Race relations in our country are an important topic for many residents in our area.

Now, the Palm Beach County School District is looking to bring the discussion into middle school classrooms with a new course.

Brian Knowles, the manager of the office of African, African American, Latino, Holocaust and Gender studies for the Palm Beach County School District, said middle schoolers will have a new elective option called "Prejudice and Power: A Discourse on Race and Ethnicity in the United States."

"(The class will) create student voice around difficult conversations pertaining to race," Knowles explained.

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The course, which still has to be approved by the Florida Department of Education, said the class idea has been in the works for more than a year.

Knowles said recent current events surrounding George Floyd's death and the protests that followed called for faster implementation. He said the course is about student voices.

"This is not about a teacher. This is not about my personal beliefs or opinions about issues. This is more about an unbiased, objective approach to just the realities that exist," he said.

Brian Knowles
Brian Knowles with the Palm Beach County School District said now is the time for a new class to educate students on race in America.

It's about creating a safe space to discuss structural racism and race as a social construct, among other topics.

"It's important for our young people to be able to start to engage in these conversations. Because one of the things we have done wrong as adults is that when we have these conversations, we have lost any sense of being able to dissent and dissent peacefully," Knowles said.

Jim Ring, a Polo Park Middle School teacher, said it is important for middle school-aged children to have options similar to those that exist for high schools. The idea was sparked in his classroom during media coverage of Trayvon Martin case.

"I always look at them like kind of wet cement. You can have more influence and by the time you get to high school, that cement has hardened," said Ring.

The Palm Beach County School District said the reaction has been good, but there are some who don't agree.

"Maybe not everybody is excited about these spaces, but I think that only proves how incredibly important it is to provide those spaces," said Diana Fedderman, the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in Palm Beach County.

Fedderman believe students are ready.

"If there is anything a post Parkland has really taught adults is that our students are ready. Our students ready and capable, and they want to engage in civil discourse," Fedderman said.