Friday, January 14, 2000
Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration: Panel talks of race, social issues at area high schools
On Sunday afternoon Middlesex School hosted a panel discussion on diversity in the high schools with students from Concord-Carlisle High School, Concord Academy and Middlesex giving their candid opinions on some of the issues students face. The event "Continuing the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr." was sponsored by the Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council and included three students from each school.
John Lin, Middlesex Assistant Head of School for Student Life, moderated the discussion and asked students to be honest in their answers to questions about the racial and social climate inside their schools. Claudel Antoine of Somerville, who attends Concord Academy as a day student, said he felt comfortable as a student of color at a private school. He said the school has made diversity a goal in the past few years and there are two other African-American and two Latino students in his class.
On the issue of mixing among the different racial groups at school, Kenya Thompson, a senior at CCHS and a METCO student, said she felt students tend to mix naturally with people who are similar to themselves. However, Thompson, who has attended the Concord schools since the first grade, say she tries to mingle with more people at CCHS. Middlesex student Chris Jordan said ethnic groups tend to hang together. Jordan said she's noticed she and her dormitory mates at Middlesex "look like a diversity magazine cover" and are Korean, African-American and from Aruba. She said a diversity committee has formed this year at Middlesex. Student Ritwik Rastogi of India attends Middlesex. Rastogi reminded the group that "White is also a color," and said as an Indian he feels he is "in between" the racial groups.
An audience member asked female students what the climate was like for women at their schools. Marnie Edelhart of Concord Academy said there is a tradition of girls leading in student government at the school. Edelhart said she thinks the tradition continues because the school was once an all-girl school and said, "It's a powerful place for women to be." In a course she takes called "Gender in American Culture" Edelhart says only girls signed up for the class. Jordan noted in contrast that the Middlesex School was a boys-only school until 1974 and has a "male tradition."
Lin asked CCHS students how they felt about the recent incident involving five CCHS students who are charged with a felony for allegedly videotaping sex with a female student without her consent. The students have been suspended from school until the end of January or until completion of court proceedings. Thompson said because the students charged are part of the METCO program "There's the expectation that if one person messes up, everyone in the program messes up." She said after the incident made the news she felt she "got looks" as she walked through Concord. CCHS student Megan Miller of Carlisle said she has worked to better race relations at the school. However, she is uncomfortable with the views of some she has encountered. "Some people feel that the METCO students are privileged to attend the high school," she said. Jason Haas, a METCO peer leader at CCHS, said he was overwhelmed with emotions, referring to the backlash from the incident. "There's a lot of negative attention on METCO now," he said. Both a student petition asking the administration to allow the students to return to classes and graffiti written on bathroom walls at CCHS have helped to "feed the fire" he said.
Lin said it was beneficial for the students to meet and talk about the issues at their schools. He said of the students' experiences "There is a 'niceness' on the surface. On one level things are going great. At the same time there is dissidence going on." The Voices of Glory gospel choir closed the event singing to an audience of over 50 community members.
State Senator Susan Fargo presented the Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council with a citation congratulating the group for their dedication to human rights.. She thanked them for focusing attention on youth and cultural diversity.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito