I’m a Student at Cretin-Derham Hall and We Have a Serious Race Problem

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For months, students at Cretin-Derham Hall have been organizing for racial justice. Our efforts started with the death of Daunte Wright at the hands of police while the Twin Cities waited to hear the verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial.  We responded by helping organize CDH student participation in a statewide school walkout. Without taking that step, our school would never have begun the process of taking a hard look at the lack of racial equity in its own practices.

Unfortunately, our participation in that walkout also became an opportunity for staff at our school to show what adultism, racism and restrictions on free speech look like. After the walkout, some of us were suspended for “negative and profane speech and signage featuring anti-police vitriol.”  That’s because some of us shouted a common slogan heard at rallies to protest unjust policing. We joined in the common cry for justice at an event that our school said it had no hand in organizing.

If our school had no hand in organizing the event, why did they have a hand in punishing us for speaking out?

Three years ago, about 600 CDH students walked out of school to protest gun violence. Our school was proud to support students in their effort. Does that pride longer apply when the gun is wielded by a police officer? Is CDH afraid to hold a consistent ethic of life because wealthy white donors who view police more positively could be offended?

We see the adults in our school prioritizing white comfort over the lives of Black students. We see you. We see you acting two-faced. We see you trying to protect yourselves at our expense. We see who really matters at CDH, and it’s not us.

That’s why we held a second walkout. It’s well past time to address the issues of racism inside CDH. Your response to the first walkout simply opened a door to address a closet full of problems that are all tumbling out now.

We’re tired of being part of a school community that tolerates hate speech. We’re tired of our classmates using racial and homophobic slurs without any real checks on their behavior. We’re tired of teachers tolerating and even encouraging this kind of speech, as well as tolerating and participating in discrimination in dress codes and discipline enforcement.

We’re tired of seeing Black students, especially Black male students, being steered toward sports and away from other extracurriculars. We’re tired of being discouraged from challenging ourselves academically by taking advanced classes. There aren’t that many Black students in advanced courses—how many of them are, instead, focused on sports, with the support of the school?

We’re tired of attending school in an environment that pushes us to assimilate and does not respect cultural differences. Our school handbook still has policies that say Black girls can’t have extensions, and that no one can have hair “not natural to your race.” We want our school to uphold its purported values of being a progressive institution, not to fold in the face of opposition from powerful pro-police, pro-status quo alumni who don’t support Black lives.

We acknowledge that CDH has taken a few, beginning steps in response to our efforts. We welcome the school’s new director of diversity, equity and inclusion. We look forward to the results of a data analysis to be conducted on the history of student disciplinary actions at our school. We appreciate that this year’s handbook makes hate speech a separate offense from general bullying.

And, we recognize that this is barely a start. There’s much more work to be done to make CDH a truly welcoming place for all students. Therefore, we demand:

·  Racial sensitivity training for all employees of Cretin-Derham Hall, (not just twice a year)

·  The thorough investigation and dismissal of teachers and staff who use and/or encourage students’ use of racist, homophobic and/or transphobic language and behavior.

·  Clarification of the consequences for students who use these slurs against other students. We recommend a 3-day suspension and a formal, written apology for the first offense, and immediate dismissal from CDH for a second offense.

·  More substantive changes to the school handbook regarding policies related to expression of ethnic/racial or gender identity. Specifically: remove prohibitions on extensions, restrictions on hair length  and earring for boys, the phrase “no hair not natural to your race,” and other references to dress that assume double standards (one for boys and one for girls).

·  Appointment of peer-nominated student ambassadors for both students of color and LGBTQ+ students, dedicated to creating equity among the student body and advocating for students in need. These student ambassadors would work with the new DEI administrator, so that BIPOC  and LGBTQ+ students are represented.

The changes made so far are only a modest start to addressing the problem of discrimination within our own school. I hope that the student policy handbook will be seriously revamped and the administration will commit to its  proclaimed values of “diversity and inclusion.” This is the first step of many to come to making our school not only inclusive but a safe place for all students, regardless of race or orientation.

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Comments

  1. Speak! I was expelled freshman year for the same things that other race children were doing they got way more then 1 2 3 or even 4 strikes , I was always told to go to the office by my art teacher 1st period due to shoe requirements and soon as o got in I was told that I smelt like “vape juice” when that isn’t even a thing. What I actually smelt like was my female classmate who I asked for lotion due to me having eczema and the only thing she had was woman lotion and I wasn’t going to turn that down for anything I would hate to walk around school crusty as I was discussing before after they had claimed I smelt like “vape juice “ they contained to have a search which included my back pack in class as they came back they had said they found a vape in my bag which I indeed did not have when I went into school! I was framed just for my race and I was then expelled my mother and grandmother came both crying and saying I’m not like that which I’m not but for no reason would they turn there cheek to give me a second chance I even went as far as writing the school head a hand written letter to come back that was my dream school and now they have crushed my dreams, the head went to reply to me with “ sorry but we will not be reconsidering our decision” just like that. My letter had heart warming and personal notes inside … which I begged and pleaded to come back …. but never have but honestly I’m glad they told me to leave the things I have been hearing about this school it needs change !

  2. Very well done Remi. This article not just words on a paper , this is people cries to the injustice in our schools,in our community and the world. This a demand for change and you exposed the truth in the Cretin Derham Hall brand. If you receive any negative comments, any teacher complaints or and disciplinary acts ,just know we are watching and we stand behind you full fold.

    BLM ✊🏾 LGBTQ+ M 🏳️‍🌈✊🏾

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