For two hours under a blazing sun, Farmington Public Schools students, teachers, and parents talked on June 30 about their experiences with racism in the district.
Organized by 2020 graduates Aniyah Stokes and Chelsea Hunter, the Black FPS Matters Rally took place at the bottom of Shiawassee Hill just north of Shiawassee Park in Farmington. At the top of the hill stands the Lewis B. Schulman Administrative Center, the district’s central office building.
Stokes said the event was designed to “raise awareness about the experiences of students and staff of color” in the district.
“We wanted to garner support for the upcoming actions that we feel are necessary to take in the district,” she said.
“I feel as though sometimes the staff are not really heard, so with student support, they will hopefully listen and hear our voices and our demands,” Hunter added.
Both organizers were among a large group of students who signed a letter to trustees read during the June 16 electronic school board meeting. Among other changes, students want to see teacher training on social justice and conscious/unconscious bias, a student evaluation system, and a reporting system that gives students the option of remaining anonymous, among other changes.
Stokes and Hunter read student comments they collected during the previous week, some describing race-based treatment that followed students from elementary school forward:
Near the beginning of the event, Superintendent Dr. Bob Herrera was invited to speak, but his comments were cut short by chants of “not your rally” as he requested a meeting with six or eight people from the group.
“Over the past few months, listening to the public comment, receiving feedback from the community, there is a sense of urgency around us more systematically addressing this issue and doing it in a much more comprehensive and broad manner,” he said. “What that means though, is that there’s not going to be a top down decision… What we’re going to have to do is work more collaboratively as a district.”
Herrera said that would require “guidance and feedback” from stakeholders, as well as internal support from the district and exploring other resources.
“But it’s going to mostly rely on our school community,” he said.
Anyone interested in learning more about future actions like the Black FPS Matters Rally may send their contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.