Following the recent succession of publicity about racial profiling and police brutality incidents across America, high school students across Montgomery County voiced their frustration and demand change through marches, demonstrations, and discussion forums. Often endorsed by school administrators, these protests drew hundreds of participants who called for an end to de facto racial discrimination in classrooms and effective initiatives to close the academic achievement gap.
A protest joined by more than 60 students took place at Bethesda-Chevy Chase (BCC) High School the morning after the Ferguson grand jury decision. Minorities Scholars, a student organization at BCC High School, was a key coordinator of the event.
According to Jacob Rains, the Vice President of BCC High School’s student government, the movement started when several students, through text messages and social media, rallied their peers to a peace march immediately after the decision announcement. The following morning before classes began, protestors, wearing black, walked through the Atrium, the school’s main lobby. Rains added that a moment of silence when all protestors held up their hands concluded the event and lasted for four and a half minutes.
A second demonstration took place at BCC last week in response to the Eric Gardener ruling. Rains noted that after multiple meetings, the six event co-organizers gained approval from the school administrators to stage the demonstration on campus during school hours, a rare event in BCC’s history.
“Mrs. Lockard, our principal, was in support of the event,” said Rains.
More than 350 students came to the demonstration at 7:10 AM the morning of December 12. Holding signs that read “hands up, don’t shoot” and “black lives matter,” the protestors filled the school’s main lobby. Rains recited Congressman Hank Johnson’s poem I Can’t Breathe to an impassioned crowd. Student protestors then laid down across the walkways in remembrance of victims of recent violence.
“We are also protesting the broader issue of racial inequality, namely the achievement gap not just in Montgomery County, but across the nation. At BCC, we have a pretty diverse population. Yet, the Black and Latino students in AP and IB classes are looked upon differently than the white students. We go to a school with hallways that look like hallways of the 1950s—there is segregation by racial and socioeconomic lines,” Rains commented.
Almost 90 percent of BCC students with a grade point average below 2.0 belong to a minority demographic.
Rains further expressed concerns about racial discrimination in his community. “If you’re black and you walk around Bethesda alone at 9 PM at night, you’re looked at,” he said.
Eric Guerci, another student at BCC, believes that “the protest brought many educational disparities to the forefront of our daily school lives in ways that will allow the BCC community to move forward and create a brighter future for all.”
Rains noted that students of diverse identity groups participated in the demonstrations. As a result of petitions for closing the achievement gap, BCC is currently working to reform its lunch tutoring program for underclassmen.
Rains, along with several other students, also drafted a letter to Dr. Starr, the Superintendent of Schools, petitioning for after school programs to aid students facing academic challenges. Rain acknowledges that fiscal readjustments must be made for the goal to materialize.
“We need more compassion for this issue among everyone. So many people are not aware,” explained Rains.
At Richard Montgomery High School, the administration and counseling department will lead an open discussion on the theme of diversity in schools. According to Richard Montgomery SGA President Nathan Poland, the event aims “to clarify what happened, give people the forum to release emotions, and discuss the implications of what happened.”
The MoCo Student will provide further updates on student activity regarding racial violence and injustice later this week.
Article by the MoCo Student MCPS News Staff
Graphic by the MoCo Student Graphic Artist Angel Wen of Blair High School