Kwame Edwards, a graduate of the Philadelphia Public School System, speaks on his experience in the classroom.
On October 26, 2015, in a high school algebra class in South Carolina, police officer Senior Deputy Ben Fields violently flipped a student from her desk and threw her across the classroom. Several of the student’s classmates filmed the incident and the footage spread quickly through social media – the public was horrified by what they saw.
A little over a month ago, the Obama administration took action in response. Education Secretary John King released a letter urging schools to rethink the role of police officers on campus. The letter also provided guidance on creating a memoranda of understanding (MOU) between law enforcement agencies and school districts. The ideal MOU would include topics ranging from training standards to processes for removing officers, but the incentives for districts and law enforcement to adopt these suggestions are minimal.
Both the presidential and vice presidential candidates were asked to discuss police brutality toward black Americans in the recent debates. And rightly so, when black Americans make up 24 percent of people fatally shot by police despite being only 13 percent of the U.S. population. Though the candidates’ answers left much to be desired, at least we can be certain that the issue has a seat at the table.
But what about the nation’s black youth? Education has been effectively ignored this election cycle, and was altogether absent from the debates. Voters deserve to know what each candidate intends to do to keep our children safe and help them grow inside and outside of the classroom.
The last time she ran for president, Hillary Clinton said, “In the debates that we’ve had, education is an afterthought. But when I go out and campaign all over the country, it’s really on the minds of people.” So it’s fitting that the next presidential debate is a “town hall” where questions will come from both citizens and the moderators. This Sunday is the nation’s chance to speak up and demand the candidates provide plans to give our black youth everything they need to be successful, starting with a good education and a safe learning environment.
Anyone can vote to have this issue brought up formally in the debate by visiting presidentialopenquestions.com and searching for “What do you plan to do to give all black students a safe and world-class education?” – please, stop what you’re doing and vote, now.
But there is much more to be done: Tweet about why you think black students matter, share this article on Facebook, bring it up tomorrow when someone mentions the election, because black youth have been ignored for too long, and we have a chance to help. Let’s take it.
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