The same week a grand jury in Kentucky decided not to indict three police officers in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, high school student leaders in Maryland participated in a virtual town hall Friday.
Although eight of the students serve on county school boards and another student moderated the discussion, they all spoke on behalf of themselves.
In connection to the Breonna Taylor case, Ninah Jackson, a 17-year-old senior at Oxon Hill School and member of the Prince George’s County school board, asked how can students have faith in public institutions, vote, or contact their local officials when “the system isn’t going to give them the answer or the results they’re looking for?”
“Dissatisfaction is all the more reason to want to get involved and all the more reason to push for change,” said Nick Asante, a senior and member of the Montgomery County school board. “These systems are broken, so it’s our job now to go in and fix these systems through our voting, supporting candidates who we believe will change these systems through our advocacy.”
The students who participated in Friday’s discussion titled “Racial Injustice in Education” are part of the state’s Student Member on the Board of Education, known as SMOB.
Some of the topics focused on student leadership, incorporating LGBTQ education into the curriculum and Black Lives Matter in schools.
A hot button topic that continues to be discussed nationwide deals with school resource officers (SROs).
Ninah said that topic won’t be reviewed again in Prince George’s until January.
That’s because the school board recently adopted a recommendation from the Operations, Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee to wait until a police reform report becomes completed by the county executive’s police reform task force. The report must be completed by Oct. 30.
Afterward, school staff can review the report and analyze the impact of school resource officers.
Zach Koung, a high school senior in Howard County, said SROs are stationed at 12 of the 20 middle schools. Those 12 schools have the highest number of Blacks who attend them, he said.
“If SROs were there to protect against school shootings, wouldn’t they be at every school?” Zach said. “I don’t think the data really supports their presence.”
That’s why, as Drake Smith said, working with adults can be challenging because “some of these old people can be really hard-headed.”
Smith, a senior from Anne Arundel County, said alliances can be formed by understanding another person’s culture. That, in turn, creates a more diverse and inclusive community in and outside of school, he said.
“I don’t expect you to read a whole book about Islam. All I expect you to do is not be afraid and talk to these people that don’t look like you,” he said. “The best learning experience can happen just bytalking to somebody that doesn’t look like you, someone that’s not cut from the same cloth.”