First, I would personally like to thank the PTA and school board for allowing me the opportunity to speak on behalf of my wonderful high school. I’m here to be as transparent as I humbly know how. In addition, I would like to thank all the parents of Central High School for bringing your concerns to my attention as it relates to your child’s academic success. As principal of Central High School, my goal is to make every child feel welcomed, connected, and a part of our Central High School Family. It is vital that we create spaces within schools that affirm our students’ identity. Our school mission is to create a culture of inclusion where all students are included because student voice matters.
The national conversation on race certainly influences our county and the schools in which we serve. At Central High School, we have a large African-American population of students. I think it is imperative that we as citizens of this community and school bring awareness of the various issues that may be affecting our students such as race, class and gender, including mass incarceration, police brutality, poverty, unaffordable housing, income disparity, homophobia, unjust immigration policies, gender inequality, and poor access to healthcare just to name a few.
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The first issue, I would like to address is the overall concern of the CEC Club changing its name at Central High School. After speaking with faculty, students, and staff, I firmly believe that with a consensus vote amongst students, it is appropriate to change the name from the CEC Club to the Black Lives Matter Club. Before we change the name however, my goal is to have a substantive conversation about this issue not only in our school but to have the community get on board and provide feedback as well. I also think that as a school we look forward with new ideas that will help our school and community grow together. One new initiative I plan to bring forth that collaborates with the Black Lives Matter Club is the Black Lives Matter Week of Action in our Schools. This national initiative teaches students about having critical reflection and having honest conversations in school communities for people of all ages to engage with critical issues of social justice. As educators we must engage students to build collaboration and agency so that they are equipped with the tools and resources needed to become lifelong learners.
The second issue I would like to address, is my stance on students kneeling during various athletic games. We are a school who strives on equity. We are a school where all students should be treated equally. We do not influence students, but we do take pride in being respectful of those who want to practice their free speech. We will not stop any student from standing or kneeling during the national anthem. We as a district and a school will honor all our students first amendment rights. We cannot divorce ourselves from the realities of racism because it would be like “trying to stop the ravages of a tropical windstorm with an umbrella.”
For those of you who may recall the “Civil Rights Movement,” there are many similarities in the tenets of the two movements. If you consider it, the “Black Lives Matter” and “Civil Rights Movement” both use non-violence as the focus to effect and influence change. As the members of the “Civil Rights Movement” marched alongside factory workers, sanitation workers, and students to ensure representation and to mobilize the bus boycott, so does the “Black Lives Matter” Movement work to improve the lives of all people. In 2014, “Black Lives Matter” marchers boycotted the Walmart Stores to raise awareness of the low wages and conditions of employees in the Walmart Chain. As a result of the marches, 11% of sales were lost. Furthermore, the “Black Lives Matter” Movement and the “Civil Rights Movement” were born because of the role that the media played to raise awareness of the deplorable and unfair conditions, which also led to the “Me Too” movement, and other movements that sparked protest from all cultural groups. So too, young people are riveted to the electronic media, twitter, Facebook and Snap Chat. While many of you will respond that “All Lives Matter,”, but as the founder of Black Lives Matter responds, “All lives Matter implies that all lives are equally at risk, which they are not.
Hence, students can practice their first amendment right to freedom of speech, expression, and assembly. However, students may face restrictions on how they demonstrate. This brings up the next concern about students engaging in acts of guerilla theatre. I’m truly about creating a safe learning environment where all students and staff are comfortable and feel welcome. We are a school who allows students to express their first amendment, but there are some restrictions regarding engaging in any disruptive acts at our school. Students must adhere to the school guidelines and rules that directly apply to participating in acts such as these. If students are unwilling to comply with the rules set forth by the school, there will be mandated consequences. Students are more than welcome to speak with counselors and support staff about some issues they may be facing at home and or at school. Our school focus is working together, and we always have counselors on duty who can handle specific issues or group issues. We all have an open-door policy where students are welcome to come talk with us about anything.
Our students at Central High School play a huge role in improving and strengthening the community. Students that are volunteering and promoting their voice is student choice. We as a school provide volunteer opportunities where students can learn and grow. Students can learn all about citizenship and giving back to the community in which we serve. Research has proven that students who volunteer gain a lot of benefits. Those benefits include developing skills and gaining experience that will prepare them for the workplace. This also creates opportunities for students to meet other peers who share the same interest and building community awareness to improve situations and help people.
This biggest concern amongst parents was regarding the curriculum. “ Too often the issues that matter the most are absent from the curriculum”. We must be working together to find solutions to the challenges are students are facing. Our school must be a place where students feel supported and empowered. A recent study by Stanford University researchers advocates for the case for Ethnic Studies in schools. The study has been proven to show that students who participated had a higher attendance rate, and better test scores amongst their counterparts. It is very beneficial for all students to see their culture and ethnic backgrounds represented in the classroom and throughout the school.
In the June 2016, Education Post, authored by James E. Ford, “2015 NC Teacher of the Year, it was asserted that “Education must be a part of the dialogue for Black Lives and Social Justice. While education is touted as “the great equalizer”, we fail as a nation to equalize educational opportunities for everyone. The “Black Lives Matter” Movement has raised the awareness of the disparity and abuses of power; sadly, education has not been excluded. Even though Brown v. Board of Education taught us that separate is not equal, many schools are resegregating. based on both race and class. This movement also unveiled the fact that in education students of color are often unrepresented in academically rigorous courses because they are stereotyped, or outdated identification systems are used.
As for teachers who are interested in teaching to the total child, and children of all ethnicities, religions, colors, and creeds, the statistics show that in 2014, many students in public schools were non-white, yet 82% of the teaching workforce remained white, and only 7% of all teachers were Black, and only 2% of them were Black males.
Our students at Central High School deserve a school where all students are allowed opportunities to academic rigor, where teacher diversity is welcomed because it helps improve academic performance. While it might surprise you, many of the leaders of the “Black Lives Matter” movement are themselves educators. Finally, educators have a moral as well as ethical obligation to bring awareness of racial justice and must not shy away from students using their voices to bring about change. In other words, “Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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