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A Student’s View on Recent Board of Education Decisions

The decision for “politically neutral” curricula has caused many students to protest and criticize the Board of Education.
A+student+stands+next+to+a+sign+that+protests+the+board+decision+during+the+Board+of+Education+meeting.+The+decision+was+highly+controversial+and+caused+many+people+to+rally+against+the+decision.+
Sophia Allen
A student stands next to a sign that protests the board decision during the Board of Education meeting. The decision was highly controversial and caused many people to rally against the decision.

Francis Howell School District has been the subject of media attention as many students, families, and teachers have been pushing back against the original verdict and rallying together to attempt to reinstate the classes Black Literature and Black History. The backlash to the decision ended in the board successfully reinstating the classes, however they also decided to change the curricula to be “rigorous and largely politically neutral,” as written by President Adam Bertrand and Superintendent Kenneth Roumpos in a statement released Dec. 28

On the same day, a group of students, parents, community members and organizations including the St Charles County NAACP met at the First St. Charles United Methodist Church to discuss the recent board decision and organize ways to protest for the decisions to change and show their support for the classes. 

Junior Isabella Duncan is one of the students who went to this meeting because of her strong feelings against the decision. 

“[There was a] variety of people that came from each school. Not only was it students, but it was community members, it was teachers. We all discussed what we think should happen, what needs to be put in place and how we can change this. I think it’s important to see how everyone feels about this and how strongly even students here feel about the problem,” Duncan said. 

Duncan believes that this meeting was a good step to show the board that the community stands with these courses and what they represent.

“I think it showed that we do care and I think they took [the Black Literature and Black History classes] away because they’re scared that we’re gonna learn to embrace what we have now or become too powerful, but taking it away has only made us more powerful and made us want to fight back more because we want it back,” Duncan said. 

Duncan expressed her disappointment in the board and how they handled the situation. 

“I think it sends [a message] that they do not care as much as they showed about all their students and the variety of students we have. The fact that they removed it in the first place is unbelievable to me,” Duncan said. “It’s definitely showing that there’s obviously favorable differences to the board. They think that [it] doesn’t matter as much to people but it’s obviously proven to be important. If you ask anyone who is in the class, they clearly appreciate it.”

Senior Noah Layman was another student who went to the Methodist Church meeting, and mentioned how it encouraged him to take a stand against the board’s actions. 

“I was already feeling pretty upset about the actions that the board had made, but the meeting itself kind of just strengthened those feelings, and just really gave those emotions a drive to make a change, to really make an effort towards doing something to [create] actual change. I think the meeting allowed us to get together and really brainstorm ideas to try and make change or at least make the board aware that we are upset,” Layman said. 

Layman is against the idea of teaching these courses through a “politically neutral” lens, stating that it would simply be impossible to teach subjects like Black History and Black Literature without the acknowledgment of the social justice movement. 

“After everything that people of color and minorities have gone through, especially in America. You can’t teach Black History without teaching the activism and the social activism behind it because the social activism behind it made Black people what they are today.” Layman said. “The only thing the board has done by removing these classes was to cause the students to become activists and fight for this.”

Senior Sean Latta, who was the student representative for the Dec. 21 meeting, criticized the phrasing, “politically neutral,” and believes their decision to reinstate the classes as a cover for themselves after the backlash. 

“[T]he phrasing they used, specifically the ‘politically neutral’ part comes off as a blatant cop-out answer to appeal to both their voter base and those who want the classes. When they flip so suddenly from a staunch supporter of removing the class to suddenly bringing the class back, it shows that they were incredibly aware of the fact that the negative backlash from their decision was going to outweigh the already existing support that they had from voters, especially so close to elections,” Latta said. 

Latta sees this reaction from the board as proof of the effect the community can have when they work together to voice their concerns and disapproval. 

“While all the wording of their communication has been confusing, one message that has stuck out to me that they’re trying to hide from is that they fear for their security of position as board members. Their approach and ‘solution’ to the problem that they created clearly screams that they truly only serve themselves and their ambitions, and will attempt to make any compromises to save their own skin and seat. This tells the community that the community has a voice to create change through peaceful protest and vocal opposition to the decisions made by the board.” Latta said. 

Layman believes these courses are important and should be taught in a way that doesn’t include being policed for allegedly not being “politically neutral,” because it makes minorities in America feel as though they matter and have a voice in the country. 

“Everyone deserves a chance to have their own history taught to themselves and not just America as a whole,” Latta said.

 

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