An Alabama school district is hoping to get to the bottom of a student walkout amid allegations that a Black History Month event was being censored.
Around 200 Hillcrest High School pupils participated in the protest on Wednesday (Feb. 8) after claiming that school leaders told them to omit slavery, the civil rights movement and other events that occurred prior to 1970 from their upcoming program on Feb. 22.
On Friday (Feb. 10), Tuscaloosa County Schools System Superintendent Dr. Keri Johnson said that students will have “an opportunity to express concerns openly and honestly” on Monday when district leaders host focus groups to speak with faculty, students and community leaders about the allegations and to determine how the walkout started.
“TCSS supports our students in expressing themselves and including all parts of history, such as slavery and the civil rights movement, in their program,” said Johnson. “We also teach these topics in our history classes, as they are part of the Alabama State Department of Education history standards,” she noted.
TCSS Director of Student Services Ty Blocker added that it is critical district leaders understand exactly how the high schoolers intend to acknowledge the historic events and that they feel welcomed to do so. He also hopes to identify the faculty members who gave students the impression that any part of the program was not suited for their learning environment.
“From a system standpoint, we don’t censor students fully expressing themselves,” Blocker told Birmingham news affiliate ABC 3340. “Through Black history, we want our students to be aware of their history. That is something that not only do we allow, that’s something that we welcome and support.”
Lisa Young, president of the Tuscaloosa branch of the NAACP, said she spoke with some of the students about the school’s culture. She was told that “it was more intimidation, and the students were concerned; they were visibly shaking. I would say some were traumatized.”