Seeking equity in private schools
A group called Alumni for Change is broadening its calls for anti-racist private education in Alaska by drafting legislation and looking into becoming a nonprofit.
Alumni for Change, also known as the Private School Justice Movement, is a group of students and alumni from Anchorage Christian Schools and Grace Christian Schools who have come forward about alleged incidents of racism from their times at those schools.
Since originating in May, the movement has resonated widely with students from around the state. They have shared their experiences on social media, held panels online, met with school administrators and protested the schools’ treatment of minority students. And they’ve gathered over 100 testimonials meantime.
Anna Simmers, a 2009 alumna of Anchorage Christian Schools, said getting the word out was part of the group’s initial strategy. Now, about 50 alumni strong, they’re focusing on enacting change that could be applied to private schools across the state and U.S.
“I would say our direct mission statement would be for the textbooks in the private education system in America to reflect true American history instead of the white-washed, often white supremacist ideology that is taught in private schools,” she said.
Simmers and her co-organizers also want to see schools enact specific accountability measures for staff, which is why they’re drafting legislation that proposes legal systems through which minority students and families can report incidences of racial harassment and discrimination — not just at Anchorage and Grace Christian Schools, but statewide. They’d also like to see schools give faculty and staff more thorough background checks and make their disciplinary records public.
Some of the group’s members are part of a legal team and, with support from several local and state legislators, they’ve drafted pieces of legislation that they’ll try to move through state and municipal bodies. Simmers said State Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson (D-1), State Congresswoman Ivy Spohnholz (D-16) and Anchorage Assemblyman Felix Rivera (District 4) have all agreed to sponsor the legislation.
Alumni for Change has also received support from the Alaska Black Caucus, Alaska chapter of the NAACP and Alaska School Activities Association, among other entities, Simmers said.
Joshua Branstetter, an alumnus of Anchorage Christian Schools who is working with the movement, said there is not enough advocacy for minority students in private schools specifically. He’d like to see laws that hold private school staff and faculty accountable.
“For me personally, I want real, tangible, actionable change,” said. “And that means policy change.”
Alumni for Change also have an advisory board of pastors and an outreach team. Part of the outreach team’s duties have been to connect with alumni in similar movements around the country.
The broadening of the movement is in part what is motivating the move toward becoming a nonprofit, Simmers said.
“We’re really in the baby steps right now, deciding what this is going to look like for us,” she said. “If things go national as we anticipate, which is our end goal, we have to be able to handle any financial donations or support or people who want to come on board and help us as volunteers.”
Simmers is not yet sure how long the process of becoming a nonprofit will take.