The School of Education Blog

Six Steps to Becoming an Antiracist School Leader

Antiracism leadership is one of the most important aspects of dismantling systemic racism in education across America. Learn six steps to antiracist leadership.

, superintendent of , adjunct professor at Georgetown University

From the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in 1619 to the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests for social justice, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) have experienced oppression and marginalization for over 400 years while helping to mold and build the American dream. As a school superintendent of color, I have experienced some of the racial inequities in education, both directly and indirectly. We must ensure all school leaders follow specific guidelines to becoming antiracist.

Education is the pillar to changing the world. A part of education is the truth that lies within our history in America. “The truth will set you free” is prophetic and provides the guidance needed to become an antiracist leader in education. In order to change the racial narrative for BIPOC students and their white counterparts in schools across the nation, antiracist leaders need to have the courage and boldness to unapologetically dismantle systemic racism in education.

As an antiracist leader, I have made being my authentic self a part of my core values, especially as an African American man in America. Being comfortable is nobody’s right, and we must empower others to lean into their discomfort in order to achieve racial equity in America. Beyond speaking their truth, an antiracist leader in education will need to take the following six steps:

1. Know Your History

Self-interrogation is key to being an antiracist leader. Exploring one’s personal history and school’s or school system’s history helps in establishing solutions for overcoming school or school system challenges. Knowing one’s authentic history will provide insight into the root causes of today’s problems and tomorrow’s promise.

Hence, one of the reasons many people are fighting against the banning of diversity efforts such as critical race theory is they know the danger of preventing the history of America from being taught in our schools. Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) implemented the Identity Project, which educated our community on the history of ACPS and led to the renaming of two schools, including our renowned Alexandra City High School, which was originally named after Thomas Chambliss Williams, a staunch segregationist and former superintendent of ACPS.

2. Commit to Racial Equity

An antiracist school leader makes a commitment to equity, including racial equity. The root of inequities across education involves race—a construct that has divided people around the world by the color of their skin. Racial equity must be the heart of leadership within a school or school system to ensure that race does not predict its students’ future or success. In ACPS, our school board adopted a five-year strategic plan, ACPS Equity For All 2025, which made racial equity the heart of our work to ensure that a student’s race, ZIP code, socioeconomic status, or life’s circumstances does not determine their future.

3. Dismantle Tracking and Within-School Segregation

An antiracist school leader unapologetically works to dismantle tracking (separating students based on academic ability) and within-school segregation to ensure every student is engaged in a high-quality education regardless of their life’s circumstances. Educational pathways that are fluid and without barriers will afford all students access and put them on a trajectory for success. In ACPS, we have removed barriers for students who wish to enroll in advanced-level coursework, and we are working to collapse multiple levels of courses at the middle school level to establish rigor for all students—not just those in honors courses.

4. Make School Discipline Different From Policing

An antiracist school leader develops disciplinary practices that do not mirror policing practices that contribute to the prison pipeline. A focus on restorative practices will ensure students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs are being supported. In ACPS, all schools have adopted restorative practices for all students, including community circles during designated time each day for meeting students’ social and emotional needs.

5. Think and Plan Strategically

An antiracist leader in education thinks strategically in order to navigate the waters of dismantling systemic racism in schools and school systems, and they embrace strategic planning to guide their work. Having a roadmap to success is a must on an antiracism journey, and knowing that roadblocks, alternative pathways, and unforeseen circumstances may appear along the way is paramount.

In ACPS, the strategic plan has five primary strategic goals: systemic alignment; instructional excellence; student accessibility and support; strategic resource allocation; and family and community engagement. By striving to meet each of these goals, we ensure that students are engaged in classroom instruction; have access to the educational resources needed to enhance their learning; and can participate while in safe, friendly, and welcoming environments.

6. Display Courage and Boldness

An antiracist leader in education must be the epitome of courage and boldness in order to overcome the adversity of the antiracism journey. One must possess vision, integrity, and passion, which are core values that provide the fortitude to persevere during trying times. In ACPS, our educational leaders are constantly faced with adversity, which is why we have established “brave space” through antiracism training that empowers our leaders to uphold our mission, vision, and core values as a school system.

Become an Antiracist Leader

Antiracism leadership is one of the most important aspects of dismantling systemic racism in education across America. These six steps will prepare you for “getting into good trouble at school” and afford antiracist leaders in education with the skills to change our world one child at a time. Which of these steps resonates with you? Have you implemented any or all of them with fidelity?

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Certificate Program

Antiracist Administration Supervision and Leadership

Prepares you with the required content and knowledge, as well as the necessary mindset shift, to dismantle racist practices and policies in classrooms, schools, and districts.Learn more about the executive-style, fully virtualprogram offered in different formats to meet the needs of working professionals.