By Erin Jones

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As we celebrate Black History Month, Dallas ISD is highlighting a new initiative. In the district, minorities make up more than 90% of the total student body.

“And what we’ve come to find out is that a lot of students do not resonate with what the current curriculum has,” Dallas ISD teacher Jada Weathers said.

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Weathers said she, and others, feel a sense of responsibility to adjust.

“Is their curriculum that they are experiencing culturally responsive?” Dallas ISD teacher Mariel Flores-Carter said.

Working with University of Pittsburg’s Institute for Learning and the Community Design Partners in Seattle, the district has launched a new initiative, part of which teachers and students participate in what they call empathy interviews.

“So the teachers interviewed the students about their experience in their communities and school with race and racism,” said Anthony Petrosky, co-director at the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Learning.

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“These questions, I had answers to but had never been asked them,” Wilmer Hutchins ninth grader Brayden Brown said.  “I could express myself and feel comfortable with people knowing they went through the same thing I was going through.”

Now, the teachers are now using the major ideas and themes that come from these interviews to shape a curriculum that they say is more beneficial to the student population.

“To better understand themselves as members of their communities,” Petrosky said.

“One of my main goals is to allow students to be advocates for themselves,” Flores-Carter said.

“I hope that it helps them understand that it’s okay to talk about race,” Weathers said. “When you have that space of vulnerability, that’s when the real learning and growing starts.”

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Erin Jones