Teens in more than a dozen states this fall have staged protests and spoken before school boards about racist bullying and harassment from their peers — sounding alarms over discrimination in some of the same districts and states targeted by conservative activists calling for a ban on anti-racism lessons.
Students have walked out of class over racist remarks by classmates in Connecticut and Massachusetts, racist social media posts by teens in Minnesota and Washington, graffiti with racial slurs found in bathrooms at schools in Michigan and Missouri, and threats against students of color in New York and Ohio.
David Hinojosa, an attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law who spearheads the nonprofit organization’s work on equal educational opportunities, is concerned that school board battles are imperiling efforts to achieve racial and gender equity in schools. He cited the widespread actions opposing diversity efforts “that have proliferated across the country,” beginning with former President Donald Trump’s anti-CRT executive order last year and continuing through state efforts to ban books and limit how history is taught.
“When we say it’s not OK to talk about this truthful history,” he said, “there’s going to be a bleedover effect into the behaviors of school teachers, the behaviors of school leaders and the behavior of students.”
The wave of student activism in recent months, he and two other civil rights experts said, shows precisely why schools cannot afford to avoid the topics of race and discrimination.