|...with Compton Early College High School Students|
There is something powerful about student voice, as seemingly the entire world witnessed in the aftermath of the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. In authentic expressions of solidarity and collective action, students around the U.S. (as well as outside the U.S.) protested, walked out, sat in, held assemblies, shared stories, and called for change on March 14.
In Compton Unified, we asked student leaders on each of our four high school campuses what they wanted to plan for that day. In concert with several other schools, our students organized thoughtful and inspiring assemblies that engaged the school community in dialogue, solidarity and a time of remembrance for the victims in Florida. They also reflected on their own personal experiences of losing friends and loved ones to gun violence. Middle school students followed suit, with assemblies and discussions to engage students in positive and peaceful dialogue.
I must admit…
The phrase “walk out” can be intimidating, though there was no real talk of walk outs by our own students. As a superintendent, one can become flooded with concerns related to student safety, maintaining order, and minimizing disruptions related to instruction.
But this day was different. It was needed and it was important. So instead, we turned our focus to ensuring everything done that day, from a district perspective, remained steadfast in our commitment to protect both student safety and student voice. That meant honoring their decisions related to however they planned to observe that day.
The result was a powerful and positive expression of student voice and consciousness that spoke volumes about the bright and compassionate students we have within our district and around the country. Many Compton Unified School District Teachers and administrators also joined in walking, sharing, standing in solidarity and commemorating for seventeen minutes to honor each of persons lost on that tragic day at Stoneman Douglas High School.
I did as well. As did Board Members.
It enabled us to lock arms with the very students we have been entrusted to educate and serve. It enabled us to listen and learn from their collective experiences. We were able to hear first-hand how they have been impacted by tragic events in their lives, and communities, as well as what makes them feel safe in their schools.
I encourage our students, parents, teachers and staff to continue uplifting and encouraging student expression and their involvement in civic issues. We at CUSD endeavor to foster students who are great learners and exceptional citizens that will contribute positively in the world. I believe our support of student voice can happen in both small, every day interactions, as well as huge impactful moments, such as on March 14.
Here’s to the power of student voice. Give it a safe space and it can change the world.