| Updated: August 13, 2020

Black Student Voices: Reflecting on Race and Racism in Schools

Amid a national reckoning on race sparked by the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people, thousands of high school students joined demonstrations across the country against police abuse. Some are now leading campaigns to force their school districts to create anti-racist curricula.

Against that backdrop, Education Week spoke with 10 Black high school students from across the country about how they think issues of race and racism should be handled in school.

In the first two videos of this series, students tell educators what they need from their schools to feel safe and supported, and how they’ve experienced classroom discussions about race. The next two videos focus on students’ views on the importance of having Black teachers, and the role of school police.

Black Student Voices: What We Need From Our Schools

In the first video of this series, Black high school students share what they need from educators to improve their school experience. Students, they say, need a seat at the table so they can identify school policies that lead to inequities and advocate for things like counseling supports and representation within curricula.

Black Student Voices: Classroom Discussions on Race

In this video, students shared concerns about the lack of representation in curriculum, open conversations about racial injustice, and diversity education for all students and educators. Some students also spoke about positive experiences talking about race and what their teachers did to make the conversations meaningful and productive.

Classroom Discussions on Race: Hear What 5 Black Students Say They Need

Black Student Voices: Security and Police Presence in Schools

In the third video of this series, students talk about the impact of policing in schools. The students spoke about feeling uneasy and unsafe around police officers. Security should be aimed at protecting students from intruders or other sources of harm, they said. Instead, the policing of students is often a critical step in the school to prison pipeline.

Black Student Voices: What Educators Should Know

In the final video of this series, students share what they wish educators knew. Here they spoke about the importance of Black educators, the effects of racism and anti-Blackness in and out of school, and the need for teachers to better understand where students are coming from.

In alphabetical order, the students featured in the videos are:
Jaden Adeyemi, a senior at Highland High School in Albuquerque, N.M.; Helena Almaw, a senior at DSST: Green Valley Ranch High School in Denver; William Bell, a recent graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C.; Malik Coleman, a recent graduate of Fairfield Central High School in Winnsboro, S.C.; McKenzie Curry, a recent graduate of Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio; Onome Grell, a senior at John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury, Mass.; Zoë Jenkins, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, Lexington, Ky; Davion Pilgrim, a junior at Morningside High School in Inglewood, Calif; Zion Sanders, a senior at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami; and Rena Mateja Walker Burr, a junior at Cleveland High School in Seattle.

Video edited by: Bridget Fetsko
Text: Madeline Will, Catherine Gewertz, Sarah Schwartz

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