All this talk about new high schools and redistricting has gotten me thinking:
Are we even ready to do this?
Because I have a feeling that we are not.
Cross Keys High School students were redistricted to Chamblee Charter High School this year, and while many students have said they’ve received a “warm welcome,” many students have experienced quite the opposite.
The above picture was sent to me by a former student from Cross Keys High School. Kids have been experiencing this kind of treatment for weeks now. People constantly ask them “Do you even speak English?” or “So you’re from Cross Keys, right? Are you Mexican?”
Several kids have even told CKHS students, “Cross Keys kids are ruining our reputation.”
So what did our Cross Keys students do? Contrary to what some individuals (see post below) might fear, no “gangs” retaliated. No fights were started. The students collectively wrote a letter to Dr. Norman Sauce, principal of Chamblee Charter High School.
Why does this kind of attitude exist within certain students? I can only speculate, but I can’t help but think that our children are not as oblivious as we might believe they are. Many parents have open discussions with each other, their friends, and perhaps even with their own children. If these conversations are anything like what flies around on the Facebook groups, then we have a lot of work to do to undo the damage that we are causing to our children and to our society.
The other day, a parent asked me what I thought about redistricting and new high schools. She wanted to know if I still thought we should “integrate” (for lack of a softer word) our schools given the experiences our students have been having at Chamblee HS.
My simple answer: yes, we should still integrate and redistrict.
We cannot continue to gerrymander school attendance zones and to segregate out certain groups. We have to stop moving out of school districts when students who qualify for free-or-reduced lunch get zoned for our “neighborhood school.” We have to move into neighborhoods that have racial and social diversity. We have to stop bad-mouthing certain people groups in front of our children.
We have to change our minds and our hearts.
If we don’t, then we are never going to solve the issues of racial and socioeconomic inequality. Our kids are doomed to fall into the same racist, prejudiced, and classist ways if we do not begin to act like the progressive adults we would like to think we are.
We can read books, peruse blogs, and attend focus groups on race and class ad nauseam, but until we are willing to confront these issues at the local school and within our neighborhoods, we will continue to repeat the same destructive cycle.
Why are our Cross Keys students experiencing the same kind of treatment that many Blacks faced when they integrated schools years ago? Because people haven’t changed as much as we would like to think that they have.
I know that CCHS has wonderful teachers, administrators, and students – I’ve met and enjoyed friendships with many of them. By no means is this meant as a condemnation of you or your work. (I’m sure many of you who have been welcoming are unaware this is even happening.) I know that CCHS is actually a diverse high school (e.g. in 2014, the student population at Chamblee Charter High School was 25% Caucasian, 46% African American, 14% Hispanic, 11% Asian, and 4% Biracial).
This is meant, however, as a wake-up call to those of us who are tempted to think that our children are not picking up on these disparaging comments and sentiments.
This is also meant as a call to Chamblee Charter High School: please be aware that your students and (unfortunately) some of your faculty are giving CCHS a worse name than the CK kids who have transferred there. Please address this issue swiftly.
Lastly, lest we think that avoiding redistricting is the answer, we need to create schools that allow students from all walks of life, from every race, from every religion, from every language to grow up together. Perhaps then we can actually begin to see each other as friends and equals, deserving of our respect and love.