(9th and 10th Grade Category)
2nd prize: Marib Saeed of Jersey City, NJ
Topic: Combating racial injustice in the schools
Title: Seeds of Change
The U.S. Supreme Court voted unanimously in favor of Brown vs. Board of Education, arguing that the fallacy “separate but equal” is intrinsically unequal. Cornell Law School states, “Where a State has undertaken to provide an opportunity for an education in its public schools, such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms” (Brown v. Board of Education 1954, 493). Yet, sixty-nine years later, legal loopholes exist that infringe on the rights of students of color under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It is no secret that racial injustice, the wrongful treatment of one because of race, is and has been institutionalized within most aspects of our society. Nevertheless, it is imperative to focus on combating racial injustice within schools as they are the institutions that will educate and shape the next generation. This can be achieved by diminishing loopholes in the law, educating students through unfiltered lenses, and creating a welcoming environment to learn.
A paper written by Ary Amerikaner explains the “comparability loophole.” Amerikaner explains, teachers with more experience prefer low-need schools in richer, whiter areas; while those with less are put in high-need schools in poorer areas with more people of color. Teachers’ salaries are not included when establishing comparability for Title I funding, which is federally granted aid given to poverty-stricken institutions with the promise of “comparable” opportunities to lower-poverty schools. Thus, as experience is tied to income, there is a disparity in spending. “Mostly white schools spent $733 more per student than the mostly nonwhite schools” (Amerikaner, 2022). Due to the $23 billion in annual inequality, minority students have fewer opportunities than their more privileged counterparts. The paper concludes that the U.S. is systematically (even if not intentionally) spending less on schools that serve high concentrations of students of color. In the face of this discrepancy, the following legislative change needs to be pushed and ratified by Congress. All levels of schools must be compared (Kg-12th), teacher wages must be used when determining comparability, and Title I schools must get as much funding per pupil as average non-Title I schools.
The reformation of the education system has been overdue. Columbus and his colonists, whom we commemorate by awarding a national holiday, killed 90% of the indigenous population. Yet, the nation’s youth are taught that the man who intentionally committed mass genocide was a hero. This is one instance of the public education system falling short in educating its pupils on the legitimate history of this nation. Elliot Jaspin stated, “Faced with an inconvenient history, the first defense is silence.” The voices of minorities have been silenced by those in power throughout history. The first step in breaking the cycle of prejudice is awareness. Hence, it is vital to diversify the minds of the next generation with those suppressed voices.
Schools should be environments that encourage diversity and community. It is the administrators’ responsibility to ensure that no one feels excluded or targeted at school. Zero-tolerance policies on discrimination should be implemented, with consequences staying constant for all offenders, students and faculty. Moreover, to promote understanding and comradery among students of all races, conversations on inequality need to be unstigmatized in class. At the same time, diversity in schools should be valued, not feared. Schools should consider providing outlets for students to express their cultural identities, which will lead to a more well-rounded student body.
Fighting racial injustice in schools is essential because that’s how we dimmish its power. “Racism is a grown-up disease, and we should stop using our kids to spread it.” –Ruby Bridges