Students in the Ferguson-Florissant School District returned to school today—nearly two weeks after they were first scheduled to start the new academic year.
The start of the school year had been delayed because of unrest following the shooting death of an 18-year-old unarmed black man by a white police officer.
The local Fox television affiliate, Fox 2 News, reported that teachers, parents, and other community members in the Ferguson-Florissant School District spent a portion of the day on Sunday decorating the schools with “peace pinwheels” and posting “welcome back” signs on the buildings.
While schools in neighboring Jennings and Riverview Gardens were opened during the turmoil—closing on some days after particularly heated confrontations between police and protesters— Ferguson-Florissant schools were closed throughout the nearly two weeks since Michael Brown, the teenager, had been shot by Darren Wilson, an officer with the Ferguson police department.
Officials in all schools scrambled to provide meals for students on days when the schools were closed because large percentages of the districts’ students are eligible for subsidized meals. In Jennings, 91.3 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals. In Riverview Gardens, it’s 100 percent, according to Superintendent Scott Spurgeon.
Last week, I spoke with the superintendents in Ferguson-Florissant, Riverview Gardens, Jennings, and Hazelwood, and they all expressed concerns about balancing the need to return to a normal school year with the realities of what was occurring around them. You can read a version of the story here.
The main concern, they said, was ensuring that their students were able to return to normalcy; but they also said that they would not shy away from discussions of what happened if students were to broach the topic or the larger conversation about race, social justice, and policing that has emerged in the wake of the shooting.
A number of helpful links have popped up since the shooting, offering advice on how educators in the Ferguson area—and beyond—can delve into this sensitive but important topic.
On Twitter, @DrMChatelain and others have been using the hashtag #Fergusonsyllabus to highlight reading materials that may help students understand what’s happening around them. A helpful guide from @NewsHourExtra was compiled here. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also took a look at how some schools in the area planned to address the shooting. And The New York Times is also collecting suggestions from educators on teaching about Ferguson.
After nearly two weeks, the protests are now smaller. Brown’s funeral is today, and his father has asked protesters to take a day off from demonstrating out of respect for his son.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.