July 8 — 4:01 pm, 2020

Statement: Demands to improve Black student life at Central High School

Submitted on behalf of Black students at Central.

Foreword: 

On June 9, Central High School’s African American Student Union, Black Youth Coalition, and countless other Black students decided we had enough. Inspired by the subsequent protests seen around the world, current Black students and alumni recognized that this is a moment for change: a moment to restructure the anti-Black environment Central High School fosters. It is time for Black students to be seen, to be heard, and to take action now more than ever.

Central High School functions off of the myth of meritocracy. That every student who enters the red doors located on 1700 W. Olney Avenue is granted the same opportunities, perceived the same way, and if a student fails then it is their fault. This is simply not the case for many Black students who are admitted to Central. It is clear from the protests outside that we don’t live in an equal nor equitable society. For this reason, it is impossible for meritocracy to exist.

By operating as if it does, Central unwittingly erases the societal disenfranchisement of Black and Brown students. The purpose of the following 10 demands is to level out Central’s inequities and foster a pro-Black, affirming culture where all students prosper. Accompanying these demands were seven powerful student testimonies spoken to approximately 150 students, faculty, and administration that served as the basis and catalyst for each written demand. These seven testimonies of alumni and current students are a microcosm for the wider experiences of the Black student body at Central.

It is time we understand that racism hides in the rear view, festering in every single one of us like a cancer. Poisoning society until we no longer can breathe. Over the years, Central has taken a rather reactive approach to racist incidents that don’t address the deeper wounds at hand. It’s the equivalent of putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. With these 10 demands, we urge Central to live up to its mission, “preparing students to be thoughtful leaders in a heterogeneous world.”

As a school community, we cannot hope to address the larger inequities in society without first reflecting on ourselves. The students who shared their experiences and crafted our demands did so because we love our alma mater, and we wish to see changes implemented at Central, because it does not seem to love Black students back. It is clear that it is no longer enough for Central to say it is not a racist institution or stay complacent, hiding behind its dwindling diversity. Anti-Black racism is woven into the very fabric of our societal institutions. Through the implementation of these demands, Central takes one step forward towards progress and creating a true antiracist environment.

—  Mariame Sissoko on behalf of Black students at Central

 

Demands To Improve Black Student Life at Central High School

  1.  Review the disciplinary decisions made for Black students
    • Introduce a Black panel of  students that would serve as a Black Student Council to address issues concerning the black student population
      • Monthly meetings with faculty to address issues. 
  2. Terminate the censoring of  student voices during AASU showcase, International day and hallway selection
  3. Include more academic support to level out inequities. In order to achieve this goal, Central needs to:
    • Create a Summer Bridge program to support underprivileged students who may not have been prepared by their previous school for the academic rigor of Central.
    • Launch a Black Middle States
      • Middle States is similar to a Big Brother/Little Sister program. Black upperclassmen would offer mentorship to lowerclassmen.
    • Hire a diversity and inclusion coordinator
  4. Recruit Black & Brown students for advanced classes
    • Reach out to Black Students to make sure they are informed of these classes.
    • Restructure the application process
      • Omit testing into a course
      • Create a holistic process that takes more into account then testing.
      • Stop giving preference to students who are already in advanced classes.
    • Create a Minority Mentorship Initiative
  5. Expand the curriculum of History and English classes to include African-American achievements and authors
    • Standardize and Expand the African-American history class beyond that of slavery to ensure that all students taking this course have an equal experience.
      • Include: 
        • African Achievements (Art, Literature, Music, etc).
        • Content about other leaders besides MLK.
        • A deep study on today’s era; for example, BLM movement.
    • Expand English classes to study more books from prominent Black authors
  6. Refine school events to be more accessible to black families
    • If possible, Extend the time period of Parent-Teacher conferences
      • Assess barriers as to why there is less participation among black families and figure out solutions to those barriers
  7. Address implicit biases within the school community.
    • Hold seminars for teachers during professional development about racism & inclusion.
    • Hold seminars for students during open advisory to address racism and inclusion. 
    • Hold teachers and students accountable and keeping documentation of violations
      1. This includes reviewing sponsors of clubs, organizations, and Student Association heads for implicit bias and complaints made by students.
    • Stop silencing teachers when they speak out on Black student issues.
    • Evaluate dress code for implicit bias against women
      • Terminating rules regarding non-religious headwear.
        • Teachers should not get to decide what is cultural 
  8. Hire more Black teachers & faculty. 
    • Hire more Black teachers so that our school can reach a teacher percentage of at least 30% Black teachers
    • Screen New Teachers for implicit bias and racism 
    • Restructure Teacher Hiring Committee
      • Add Black students to the committee
      • When picking students for this committee and others,  contributions other than academics such as clubs and sports should be considered.
        1. Students who have to balance a lot have experience relying on teacher support. A well-rounded panel can reflect the needs of the entire student body.
      • Recruit Black parents for the teacher hiring committee 
  9. Create a Black student recruiting team to reach out to primarily black middle schools during the high school application process
      • The Black population of Central is slowly dwindling- it is now under 20%
  10. Recruit more Black orientation leaders

 

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