Man shushing the camera
3 min read | Aug 2020

My High School Is Trying to Silence Us: It Won’t Work

A current student explains that his racist, anti-protest high school will not win the day.

Lead with Time / Gen Z / Progressive / Student

Back in 2018, when the Parkland shooting happened, all the schools in my area took part in the walkout. Being a politically educated eighth-grader at the time, I joined. At what is now my high school, they had a much different experience. 

There was a small group of kids who took part with good intentions. There was also a larger majority who had walked out but disagreed with the messages being spread. Their goal was to counter-protest, armed with Trump flags and their trucks. Near the end of the moment of silence, some of the counter-protesters got physical with the other students who were participating in the walkout. In the end, it resulted in a brawl that would eventually have larger consequences.

My Principal Is Leading the Charge

Walking into my high school in the fall of 2018, I felt like I was ready to take on the world. Being a tryhard came easy. The most important activity, for me, was student council. I was and still am there to fight for our students. However, our administration had different ideas in mind. 

Throughout the year I started to pick up bigger projects. At one point, a student education activist group announced they were looking for schools to be tour stops. The possibility was brought up to the principal. He had a phone interview with the group and then sat down for a debrief with us. The principal made it clear he was insulted and gave details that have been ringing in my head ever since.

He informed us that he would no longer allow students to protest or partake in any acts of civil disobedience—big or small—because the students do not know what they are talking about and it makes him look bad. There were also personal insults thrown at me. My school has since shut down or not approved various events that the administration does not personally agree with, like events relating to Black History Month. They have attempted to keep students quiet so no one can hear their stories, with fears of punishment looming.

My School Is Racist

My school has also perpetuated a culture of racism and antisemitism at the expense of the students' well-being. Some kids have dealt with swastikas drawn on their possessions. Other students felt the need to make “swasti-cocks,” which is as bad and offensive as it sounds. Jewish students have been called names like "Jewish cow" and "kike". 

In addition to the numerous Holocaust “jokes,” one black student shared that while he was on the JV basketball team his teammates called him “Radio”—like the movie by the same name about a young black man who was mentally challenged. One black student had cotton balls dropped in front of him and a white student asked him to pick them for him. 

My school is majority white: 73 percent to be exact. The students all around know what is going on and so do the teachers, but no one stops it. No one has been punished for saying anything offensive or hurtful. Our administration refuses to take a stance and now, due to their inaction, these problems run rampant.

My School Fails in Other Ways, Too

High school is already hard enough. 

Everyone works to make sure they get by, graduate on time and not have to spend any extra time there. However, at the beginning of last year, the class of 2021 received some terrible news. Our state handed down a list of 11 different choices for graduation requirements. Every school needed to institute one of those choices. Despite my school being the career and tech hub for the district, we instituted minimum SAT scores. For a school that offers and suggests alternatives to college, it is astonishing they picked that test. My school made its students take more standardized tests instead of helping.

When in-person learning was still occurring, my school failed its students. It stopped students from growing or working by taking away their participation and completion points. It barred students from graduation only because they did not meet the standard on a test designed to prove college readiness—not life readiness. My school failed to protect students’ constitutional rights. As a student, I can see that our education system is majorly flawed. 

I know my school could be a lot worse. I am thankful we have a nurse, counselors for all grades, a gifted and talented coordinator, and no gang violence. Yet we have so much further to go. My school has proven to its students time and time again that when the adults fail, the students must step up. The current system is built to keep students quiet, but just because our school has failed us does not mean we cannot grow and move past it. I and hundreds of other students are hopeful my school will change, grow and evolve to fit the time in which we live. Until then we wait. And we try to speak.

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