Henrico students to advocate for change in school systems this weekend

Henrico students to advocate for change in school systems this weekend
Henrico students are expected to advocate for change within the school system at two events Saturday (Source: Henrico Justice, HCPS)

HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - This weekend several Henrico County students are holding events demanding the school system address systemic racism.

On Aug. 1 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. a “Students for a Change” event will be held outside the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center.

Henrico County School Board Chair Roscoe Cooper (Fairfield District) is expected to be in attendance as well as Varina District board member Alicia Atkins.

“There is significant outreach from families and students about reopening of school, affordable childcare, racial discrimination, and resources in the East End,” Atkins said. “Recognizing that our community cares deeply about these topics, I am excited about participating in Students for a Change event.”

HCPS will be represented at Saturday’s “Students for a Change” event, including Roscoe Cooper, chair of the Henrico...

Posted by Henrico County Public Schools on Friday, July 31, 2020

School leaders said this is an opportunity for students to share their thoughts and solutions with administrators.

The event is being hosted by Community Supporting Students for a Change and local faith-based organizations.

Additionally, a student led organization called Henrico Justice plans to hold a demonstration outside the Libbie Mill Library at 6 p.m. Saturday.

“Black students matter,” said one member.

Just like their previous march in Short Pump on July 11, former and current Henrico students will gather to address what they see as systemic racism within the school system.

They’re also teaming up with the Richmond student-led organization RISE4Youth.

Current and former Henrico County students will gather outside Libbie Mill Library Saturday to advocate for change
Current and former Henrico County students will gather outside Libbie Mill Library Saturday to advocate for change (Source: Henrico Justice)

“To advocate for equitable schooling in both Richmond and Henrico County public schools,” said Henrico Justice organizer Holly Doustout.

Henrico Justice has put together a list of recommendations for the Henrico County School Board.

“Reforming the Equity Ambassadors Program, which is a program that supposed to promote equity in the County,” Doustout said. “We’re also asking that they try to find a way to bridge the gap between schools in the eastern and western end of Henrico County Public Schools.”

“I’ve seen firsthand the inequity’s and injustice that goes on especially between the East end and the West end,” Tani Washington at the Short Pump march on July 11 said.

For years parents and even teachers have aired concerns about the lack of resources in the County’s east end.

“For example in the West end we have more AP classes we can take,” Doustout said. “Yes, part of that is per say a lack of interest in the classes, but nonetheless, there is a huge lack and divide between AP classes and event centers in the east end.”

Students also say how they’re treated needs to change as well.

“When it comes to disciplinary issues I’ve noticed a division between students of color’s punishments and white students punishments,” Doustout said. Other recommendations for the school board include:

  • Reforming the privatized funding rules in Henrico County Public schools
  • Reforming specialty centers to make them more equitable for low-income students, students of color, and students from the East end
  • Defunding HCPD and removing the HCPD from schools
  • Instituting a uniform countywide definition of racial discrimination and a uniform procedure that defines consequences in cases of racial discrimination
  • Creating equitable schooling in Richmond City Schools

Over the past few months, HCPS has held “Community Conversations” aimed at speaking with parents, students, faculty and the greater community about a variety of issues.

While Doustout said she has noticed the school board appearing more interested in these topics, she added sometimes it’s not enough.

“Listening is one thing, change is another,” she said. However, Doustout added it doesn’t all fall on school leaders to make changes.

“When we’re learning about racial issues and equity issues, the first place we’re learning about those things are in the home,” she said. “It’s very important that parents are informing their kids about these issues and not inserting bias into their children’s lives.”

People are expected to gather for the event hosted by Henrico Justice and RISE4Youth around 6 p.m. A rain date has been scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m.

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