Students Step Up at Board Meeting


Additional Reporting by Max Tirouvanziam

On Sep. 11, the second Tuesday of the month, the City Schools of Decatur Board held their usual monthly meeting. Aside from the scheduled discussion between board members and issues raised by parents, something made this meeting different: students from Decatur heavily contributed to the talking points.

To kick off the meeting, students from four different trips paid for by the Decatur Education Foundation spoke about their experiences, encouraging continued funding of the trips. Later, students from the Decatur Black Student Union (BSU) participated in a reading of demands in response to last month’s Equity Report.

To start, students from the German exchange program spoke about their experiences with host families and classmates, recalling many cultural experiences.

Next, senior Trevon Frazier detailed his trip to Quebec with the French program, emphasizing artistic experiences including graffiti and theater programs that the students attended. He also drew laughter from the board with his praise of the food that they ate.

Juniors Carly Herman-Gallow and Will Mackintosh spoke about the service trip through the Spanish program to Costa Rica including their work in the community as well as the time they spent having fun, like surfing.

Finally, sophomore Caroline Putman and senior Mario Bembry covered their experience in Washington, D.C., with the CloseUp program, including touring John Lewis’s congressional office and meeting students from all around the country.

Despite the stark differences in their individual experiences, students from each of the four trips all felt that the opportunity to change scenery and be exposed to different cultures and people than those in Decatur broadened their world views.

Students’ time to talk about their trips was limited, however, so that the board could move on to the most pressing issue on the agenda: equity in the school system.

Senior Trajan Axam and sophomore Daxton Pettus look on as the Board discusses equity in City Schools of Decatur. Both are members of Decatur’s Black Student Union (BSU), and Pettus was the first student to read a demand during the public comment section.

In the meeting’s public comment portion, representatives from the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights made their point heard about the inherent biases in the school system against minorities, which were evidenced in last month’s Equity Report, in the form of a list of demands.

Community members went up, one by one, to read off the demands to the Board, including four members of the BSU. Senior Kenya Oliver, who serves as the organization’s President, felt it was important for students to read the demands because, “essentially, they’re about us.”

“I just want teachers, administrators, and other authorities to care more about the treatment of colored students and really understand that something is wrong in CSD,” Oliver said. “There are countless testimonies from teachers, students and parents who’ve felt unwelcomed or discriminated against, and to have all of this in a community that claims to be so ‘inclusive’ and ‘rich with diversity’ should be alarming to everyone.”

Beyond the organized group who came to speak to the board, numerous other Decatur parents came to voice their support for the demands that were issued by the Beacon Hill Alliance for Human Rights.

The board responded by informing the public that they were beginning to work to meet the public’s demands as soon as possible, proposing measures such as teacher and staff bias training.

Oliver thinks that these and other measures are a good step towards increasing equity in CSD.

“I love that proposal,” Oliver said. “I think it’s a good step, but that’s not all it’s going to take.”