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Student-Led Racial Equity Course Could Debut at Oak Park and River Forest High School in 2019

By Steve Schering—Dec. 16 2018

A student-created and led racial equity course could soon be offered at Oak Park and River Forest High School, with a course pilot expected to launch in the next school year.

For years, students have brought forward ideas for developing such a course, administrators said, and recent meetings between district leaders and members of Students Advocating for Equity (SAFE) led to a draft course outline being finalized.

During the Dec. 11 school board meeting, several students from SAFE and Assistant Superintendent Greg Johnson spoke to the board about the course and its intentions.

“This idea kind of sprung up from our club SAFE,” student Naomi Leach said. “We noticed when we do discuss race in class, we have students of color who feel they have to represent their entire race, or white students and staff who are uncomfortable talking about race. We want to make a productive conversation. We are trying to make this class be productive, but also to go beyond talking about slavery and those types of topics.”

According to the students, they are hoping for a course that fosters open discussion on uncomfortable topics and goes deeper than talking about traditional race-related issues.

“Since we have been working on this curriculum and pilot for a while, we’ve had a few people bring up concerns and pushback,” student Ryhen Miller said. “One was if we do this class, how would it affect white students or any student of color? How would we make this a class where students feel safe? We’ll make it a student-led class and have it be an open space. Instead of being talked to, you’re talked with. Students can express their beliefs and themselves.”

The proposed pilot course would be a repeatable, semester course, where students develop a unit and facilitate a presentation of that unit in classrooms of freshmen and sophomores throughout the school. The topics would be about slurs, identity and racial consciousness, while also focusing on providing a true definition of diversity.

“We want to open up discussion with not just black and white people, but everybody. … It’s to learn and express themselves, minority students to feel empowered and allow white people to ask those questions and get feedback from their peers,” student Michaela Anderson said.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune.

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