Students of color are facing racial slurs and bullying in and outside the classroom, and many who are fed up have been walking out of class, speaking at board meetings and telling some of their teachers and counselors, but the problem is that nobody’s listening.
There are many different ways racism happens in schools. There are individual racist acts, like racial bullying, microaggressions, and biased thoughts. Then there’s institutional racism in which policies and rules discriminate against students of color. A rule or policy doesn’t need to be explicitly racist to be racist. It’s racist if it ends up impacting students of color more than white students.
Examples can include dress codes that ban things like durags, dreadlocks, braids, or discretionary discipline policies. Students of color end up getting punished more for the same types of offenses as white students. And then there’s also systemic racism, where racism is deeply rooted in the structures of society. Examples of that include schools with large Black and brown populations tend to have way fewer resources than schools serving mostly white students. If racism wasn’t a problem in schools, then students of color and white students would have the same probability of attending a highly resourced school, graduating, getting suspended, or expelled. But the reality is that students of color, particularly Black and brown students are less likely to attend highly resourced schools and are more likely to get expelled or suspended. And that’s a consequence of how society is rigged against those students, not something innately inherent about that student’s race leading to these outcomes.
Schools can adopt anti-racism or equity policy as one way to help dismantle racism in schools, and create a school culture that actively fights against racism rather than passively maintaining it. These policies are designed specifically to confront racism head-on and help level the playing field so that all students have an equal chance to succeed in school. And ways a school could help with this issue is to hire more teachers of color, particularly Black and brown teachers who are dedicated to addressing equity issues. Teach culturally responsive curriculum. This can include making sure that diverse voices are represented in the curriculum, in-classroom examples. It can also mean making ethnic studies a requirement for all students and not tolerating racist acts and behaviors, and having clear consequences for students who engage in that behavior, and supporting systems for students who are impacted and traumatized by racist incidents.
According to some students from Mariner High School these incidents happen often.
“One of my experiences as a black student at Mariner was when I was getting made fun of for my skin color and hair and nobody did nothing even when I told my teacher.”
One sophomore said a teacher retaliated against them
“I’m a brown student at mariner,” the sophomore said. “I remember when I asked my teacher to go to the nurse. When she was walking me, she said that I was lying and she started walking away really fast even tho I was injured. When I came back into the classroom, she took away my seat and made me stand for the last 20 minutes.”
At the end, she felt “trapped.”