A group of State College Area School District students is calling for changes to the curriculum and the district’s training programs that they say will make them more inclusive.
Dozens of students and parents attended a rally outside the district office Saturday, where student organizers read their list of demands and handed it to the district’s director of equity and inclusivity, Seria Chatters.
Among the demands organizers said they want is for the district to expand African American Studies to a full-year course with a history credit. They want to see more diverse representation in the student government and mandatory bias trainings districtwide. Other demands include increasing diversity among teachers and administrators, creating a multi-cultural center, and responding to bias and racially charged incidents better.
Chatters said students who organized the event didn’t take up the issue just this summer, when movements about racial injustice took place nationwide. Instead, she said, they have been working with the school administration to host forums on hate speech and other events to address the issue in past years.
“For them, this is not a moment. This has been a passion for them, not only because of their own identities but because of their imminent need to advocate for their peers and others,” she said.
Demanie Redhead, a rising senior at State High, said she helped organize the rally because there is unaddressed prejudice within the schools, sometimes from fellow students.
“We honestly just need to come together,” Redhead said. “And it’s not even about punishment or reprimanding anyone, it’s just about -- we can all learn something.”
Organizers said they’re hopeful the district will adopt the demands.
In a statement, the district said it shares “a mutual wish for more diversity and equity.” It pointed to its past efforts including the creation of Chatter’s position as director of equity and inclusivity, revision of its K-12 social studies curriculum and the implementation of the peer advocates program.
“We applaud our students’ initiative and their determination to use their voices to speak out for change in their community,” the statement said. “In recognition of the information presented, we will pledge to continue working with students, faculty, staff, families and community members toward becoming more inclusive and equitable throughout the district.”