Black and Brown students are in trouble. Not only do their public schools have limited funding–preventing them from receiving an esteemed education–but they are also experiencing high-levels of racial inequity across various school systems. The classroom, where students should have the freedom to learn, has instead become a zone to fight for fundamental rights–with little consequence to their aggressors.
TJ (junior at Olathe West High School) knows this well, as he was expelled from school after standing up for himself when administrators and teachers failed to do so.
Shortly after that, Kirubel Solomon (sophomore at Olathe South High School) received a piece of metal with the “N” word engraved on it. Administrators did nothing. When students and parents protested outside the school during school hours, it prompted the principal to resign instead of fighting for the rights of Solomon and other students like him.
At Park Hill South High School, a pro-slavery petition made its bout, gaining over one-hundred signatures; parents had to voice their opposition and come forward about racial inequities their students had been facing for decades.
We also cannot fail to mention Ralph Yarl–who is an exceptional student and instrumentalist. While this incident happened outside of the school, he has yet to receive the justice he deserves.
As the National Education Association’s President, Becky Pringle, told PBS: “When students feel that they are not welcome, their ability to learn and thrive is diminished.”
School boards, administrative figures, and teachers should all be doing more to ensure that students are safe and advocated for; creating classrooms that are inclusive and rooted around learning. Black and Brown students should not have to spend their time fighting for basic rights. Respect should be the floor, not the ceiling.
In light of these issues, The Kansas City Defender is creating the Black Student Solidarity Network (BSSN). The purpose of BSSN is to connect Black and Brown students across stateliness, districts, and schools to help build and to be in community with these students.
BSSN will work on three foundational pillars: advocacy and organizing, community building, and mutual aid. The organization plans to launch in mid-July and will be conducting its first meeting at the Urban League of Greater Kansas City’s office. It will also be virtual for anyone who wants to attend and cannot physically be present.
A back-to-school event is the first of many on the list–this isn’t your traditional event, however. Students will be equipped with information about their rights as students, how they can legally organize and stand up for those rights, as well as school supplies.
BSSN is meant to help students in the KCPS district and will spread across city lines to Lee’s Summit, Raytown, Olathe, and all in between.
The Black Student Solidarity Network is open to anyone in the community, parents and students, who desire to get involved. We encourage you to come out and not only show your support but help us to transform public school education for our Black and Brown students.
Those interested in joining BSSN should fill out their interest form via the following button: