Racial equity team discusses discrimination at high school
By Halle Wyatt, Co-Content Editor
Racism has often been an uncomfortable subject matter through the school district. Four years ago, administrators aimed to change that by forming an equity group to give staff the resources to learn more about racial discrimination and apply that knowledge to their teaching. This year, administrators also implemented a similar group specifically for students to share their experiences with inequity and create change at the high school.
The student racial equity team is advised by forensics and chemistry teacher Karah Weber, and is comprised of seven students spread across all four grade levels.
“The purpose of the student racial equity team is to promote racial equity and compassion and understanding among people from all different racial backgrounds,” Weber said. “[Our goal is] just perpetuating that narrative and getting it out there; communicating it to the entire student body by starting from a smaller group that is the racial equity team.”
Although the student group is far newer than the staff’s, their back and forth communication has already given the administration a new insight on the struggle for students of color.
“Through [the staff] group, we decided that in order to better serve the students of this school, then we actually need to have students that have a voice, or a direct line of communication with the staff racial equity team,” Weber said.
One of the staff group’s primary goals is to learn how to better teach individual students with their cultural backgrounds in mind, instead of seeing each student’s needs as the same.
“Knowing their culture is vital as a teacher [and] as an educator,” drug prevention counselor and staff equity group member Moana Trammell said. “We have to dispel that whole myth, ‘I don’t see color.’”
Meetings within the student equity group typically involve members discussing their observations of problems in the school community, suggesting solutions for those issues, and simply venting to each other.
Aliya Ricks, a member of the student team, appreciates the effort for all conversations to be student led.
“[Weber] actually cues us in on the conversation instead of being like a teacher towards us,” Ricks said. “She’s speaking to us like we’re the same.”
Recently, the student racial equity team assisted in the planning of the Martin Luther King Jr. assembly. The group surveyed students on if they had experienced or witnessed any racial discrimination, and to give examples if so. The results, as well staff members’ experiences with racism, were shared at the assembly.
The assembly gave the racial equity teams higher recognition among the school. Ricks hopes that the greater visibility will allow the group to teach all students appropriate techniques that can be utilized if they witness racist behavior.
“Our school isn’t super bad … racism-wise,” Ricks said. “I just want people to be aware that it is something that still happens, and maybe how you could be a [helpful] bystander.”
The majority white demographic of the school may not always be aware of racism in the community and the need for equity, but it is quite transparent to the students and staff of color.
“I think [equity is] important to me because just as a person of color … sometimes you can feel like you’re put below people,” Ricks said.
Trammell wasn’t fully aware of the extent of racism until her children experienced it at their school.
“I’m very comfortable, no matter where I’m at,” Trammell said. “[The discrimination] is real … but only because through the eyes of my kids and through their interactions [with primarily white school districts]… my awareness is so heightened up now.”
Weber echoed Ricks’ and Trammell’s sentiments.
“Equity is important to me because as a teacher and a person of color, I didn’t even understand the prejudice and the microaggressions and the subtleties of our culture that undermine and push down people of color,” Weber said. “Speaking from somebody who’s of Asian descent myself, … I think that it took me until I got to college, until I got to the real world, to realize just how much stigma and negativity had become associated with my identity and how much I had taken into myself.”
Weber hopes that the equity group will be able to change the way that students of color see themselves for the better.
“I don’t want [students] to have that really sad realization that they are lesser than their white counterparts, not because their white counterparts think of them actively as lesser,” Weber said. “It is because the culture has perpetuated that.”
Students who are interested in joining the racial equity team are advised to speak to Weber or vice-principal Andrew Guss.