This week is the Eighth Annual National Week of Action Against Schools Pushout!
Students in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro have teamed up to host events and lead the conversation.
Week of Action challenges the systemic problem of push out in our nation’s schools and works to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.
Carrboro High School student-body president, Niya Farrington, said that this year’s theme, Education is a Human Right! We Will Not Give Up the Fight!, is something she truly believes in.
“When I talk about equity the first thing that comes to mind is the achievement gap, which is something that we preach a lot about often in this district and you hear a lot of people talk about it and bring attention to it, but its constantly growing, so what are we truly doing to fix this issue? When we talk about education as a human right we need to think about the equitable practices and the racial disparities that go on in the classroom that are prohibiting this from being a human right. Whether that’s an unequal amount of minority students involved in the honors and AP level courses or the number of black and brown teachers in the classroom,” said Farrington.
On Wednesday at the Chapel Hill Public Library, students from Blue Ribbon Youth Leadership Institute and Minority Student Achievement Network led a workshop in both English and Spanish.
In the workshop students analyzed the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Conduct of Color, shared their experiences with micro aggressions in school and addressed strategies to provide solutions to disparities in instruction and discipline for students of color.
Academic Support Specialist for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and mentor, Marlow Artis, said it’s important for students like Farrington to have a voice in the discussion.
“In high school I can say that I’ve experienced being the only minority in a classroom. I have taken AP classes, I’ve taken honors classes since I was a freshman and have been the only one and I’m comfortable to say that now but that’s something that I’ve had to learn to deal with and adapt with in order to advocate for myself and as Mr. Artis said, use my voice as a student to advocate for what my needs are,” said Farrington. “Another thing that I can say I’ve witnessed is micro aggressions in the classroom whether that’s just someone underestimating my capabilities as a student of color or someone simply saying something that wasn’t appropriate to say, and that’s something that all students of color will deal with sometime in their life unfortunately.”
A second Week of Action event will be held on Saturday, October 28 at the public library from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
According to Artis, this event will cover information about the new education plan ESSA or Every Student Succeeds Act.
“Here in our district we want to make sure that parents are aware that we are changing legislation and that things are going to be implemented, so how can we get parents voices involved? When we talk about equity as well we want to make sure our parents are a part of that process. So many times our parents of color aren’t able to come to the table and aren’t informed about various practices and so as an organization we are very committed to getting the information out,” Artis said.
There will also be a “Know Your Rights” discussion facilitated by the North Carolina ACLU.
Additionally, Farrington and other students involved in Week of Action attended a workshop in Cleveland last week to combat racial disparities in the classroom.
“It’s the National Minority Student Achievement Network and we meet once every year. It’s a coalition of groups around the country, 28 districts represented, of similar things that go on in their districts, students from all over come over, we hear speakers, we tour schools, we have different people come in that have different backgrounds, and we look at the work that we’ve done in the past year, look at the issues that we’re still facing and work together as a group to see what can we implement in our district that will work towards one, closing the achievement gap and two, eliminating other racial disparities that exist within our school district,” said Farrington.
Sophomore student involved with Week of Action, Victoria Fornville, says she believes Week of Action is improving local issues.
“I believe that before we started Week of Action and before I learned the work of it that there really was no change, but slowly and surely you see that students are learning to work with each other, my group of friends has become more diverse. Going to the conference that we went to in Cleveland, I saw so many students engaging and wanting to learn and working together and building up diversity in various school districts around our country.”
Niya Farrington, Victoria Fornville, and Marlow Artis spoke on WCHL with Aaron Keck.
Despite this, Artis says there is still work to be done in Chapel Hill.
“We still have an achievement gap in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, but we have some wonderful students who are working diligently to bring positive change and so as a community if we listen to the voice of our young people, and we let them really take the lead we’ll be surprised what the positive changes that will happen in our community,” said Artis.