Black students, educators demand safety and equity to reopen Louisville schools

Updated: Aug. 3, 2020 at 11:29 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – With schools across Kentucky asked to postpone in-person classes until Aug. 17, some educators are outlining their demands to reopen Louisville schools in a safe and equitable way.

Black teachers, parents and students voiced their concerns in a “virtual rally” Monday facilitated by Black Lives Matter (BLM) Louisville. Viewers were also encouraged to sign a petition denouncing President Trump’s desire to reopen schools. The discussion was part of a country-wide movement called the National Day of Resistance organized by a coalition of teacher’s unions and progressive action groups.

“We hear you, we’re listening and that’s why we continue to fight for you,” JCPS educator Chante’ Burg said. “Know that there are several teachers that are behind you, there are several teachers that are behind this movement. We have been trying to make our voices heard too.”

During the event, organizers outlined the following demands, addressing both the pandemic and social justice:

  • No reopening until the scientific data supports it
  • Police-free schools
  • All schools must be supported to function as community schools with adequate numbers of counselors and nurses and community/parent outreach workers
  • Safe conditions including lower class sizes, PPE, cleaning, testing, and other key protocols Equitable access to online learning
  • Support for our communities and families, including canceling rents and mortgages, a moratorium on evictions/foreclosures, providing direct cash assistance to those not able to work or who are unemployed, and other critical social needs
  • Moratorium on new charter or voucher programs and standardized testing
  • Massive infusion of federal money to support the reopening funded by taxing billionaires and Wall Street
  • Equitable access to online learning

Breckenridge Metropolitan High School teacher Kumar Rashad addressed demands regarding charter schools and federal funding during Monday’s event. He expressed his view that funds meant for public schools should not be diverted to charter schools.

“We need money to reopen a whole new system. We need money to make sure we have equity for all kids, but then we got to talk about that money, where are we getting that money, from the local and federal level,” he said.

The second demand, police-free schools, was also addressed at length during Monday’s event.

JCPS parent and 2003 DuPont Manual High School graduate Shaunice Martin said her son was “manhandled” by a school resource officer when he was a first-grade student at King Elementary School. Martin said she ultimately pulled her son out of school because he was scared.

“My son got in trouble for reading a book in the corner quietly because the teacher wanted him to do it from his desk,” she said. “And that’s the type of thing our children or criminalized for, it is imperative that we have police-free schools.”

2020 Butler Traditional High school graduate and Kentucky State University freshman Savion Briggs also voiced his support for police-free schools.

“[With] resource officers in schools it poses a threat to black and brown students that look like me, every day,” he said. “We see police everywhere and it’s not always a good effect. When I see police I don’t feel warm, I don’t feel safe. When I see police, I see a threat.”

Currently, public schools in Jefferson County do not have school resource officers. Before the 2019-2020 school year, a split vote by the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) board led to contracts with school resource officers not being approved. Previously, the JCPS board discussed plans to hire its own security officers but the board has not recently scheduled any discussion or vote on that issue.

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