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Students, staff gather for discussion on race

Teachers, students and administrators held a discussion on the topic of race during A lunch on Thursday, April 5 in room 231. They considered the division between black and white students at RBHS and how teachers and administrators interact with students of different ethnicities.

Media specialist Beth Shapiro, who attended the discussion, said the idea came from a professional development meeting in February, during which Officer Kesha Edwards brought up the question of why white people are generally afraid to talk about race.

After talking about the topic at length, some staff and faculty members decided to gather in the cafeteria before spring break and allow students to join the discussion. Shapiro said the conversation went well, but the location was too loud, so they decided to advertise the next gathering with fliers and meet again in room 231. Six students showed up to the April 5 meeting, a number the organizers hope will expand.

“The thing that really impressed me the most is when students came and were open to sharing and really put themselves out there about experiences they have had,” Shapiro said. “This is important for teachers and administrators to hear that a lot of students feel this way in certain situations. I find that very powerful. I really applaud the students who are willing to open themselves up and be vulnerable and share experiences.”

One of students who showed up was sophomore Aliyah Hoban, who decided to attend the discussion after hearing about it from Officer Kesha. Although she felt the discussion started off on an awkward note since students were reluctant to speak, once they started opening up about their experiences, the conversation flowed naturally.

Hoban wishes there had been more time to talk, and she plans on getting some of her friends to go to the next meeting, which is scheduled for Friday, April 13 during A and B lunches in the counseling area.

The biggest thing I took from the discussion was identifying the problem and that the problem in Rock Bridge is that [students] all do stupid stuff as a whole, but only one side gets punished for it. I don’t see actual racism at Rock Bridge, but I do see the separation thing, but we do that by choice because we choose who we hang around,” Hoban said. “I don’t think you should have to take a whole separate class to learn about African American history; it should already be taught in class. All they teach in class is freaking slavery; what about everything else?”

For now, Shapiro said the aim of these discussions is to hear from as many people on the topic as possible. She hopes the students who attended will encourage more to come to the next one, as it will hopefully be informative for teachers to hear.

I think the more teachers who can hear more student voices the better for Rock Bridge as a whole. Just based on the short time, we clearly do have some discomfort and things that, racially, are not so cool here,” Shapiro said. “Rather than ignore those feelings and situations, it’s good to get them out and be able to discuss them. The more teachers hear this kind of input, the better.”

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