BFA administrators and staff have been engaged in learning and conversations about equity for several years. Last spring, while we were on dismissal, racial justice came to the forefront of our students’ worlds, but we were not in a position to have daily conversations with them to help them make sense of it all. School had ended for the summer, but we knew we couldn’t wait for the fall to connect with our students about this important issue.

A group of teachers decided to put out an open invitation to have a discussion about what was going on in the world and how we could move forward together. 

“I am committed to making our school and community a safe and welcoming place for everyone.”

Christy M, teacher

Around a dozen students joined the first zoom session. They asked questions about the return to school and other topics before the conversation shifted to equity and racial justice in our school. 

“I felt it was my responsibility as person to try to better the community for the people of color in our school and community” -Jarrett, Grade 12

The students had a lot of questions and concerns. The students agreed that we should continue these conversations throughout the summer and that they would reach out to their peers to expand the group. 

“ In light of protests across the world, being a part of the Fairfax Racial Justice alliance is a way that I can help to make a difference even if that is just in the small-scale community of Fairfax. Small changes have big impacts.” -Emmaleigh, Grade 11

At first, the teachers facilitated the conversation, but somewhere in the middle of the summer, the students took over the agenda and the conversation. 

“Being a part of the Fairfax Racial Justice Alliance Group is important to me because I believe it is important to advocate for equality. I believe that now more than ever, we need to confront the racism in our country and communities and work towards a future of racial justice and equality.”

Charlotte, Grade 11

Their goal was to provide opportunities for the student body to join the discussion about racial justice in our school and in the world and ultimately improve the culture of BFA. Thus, the BFA Fairfax Racial Justice Alliance (FRJA) began.

“I feel that more needs to be done in our school and in extension our community to combat and prevent the normalized racism that is overlooked and ignored.“ -Melissa, Grade 10

Over the summer, the students continued to meet to make plans for their work and set goals. They met with consultant Rebecca Haslem to create the following mission:

 “Fairfax’s student-led initiative to address racial inequity within our community. By creating a safe space to hold conversations and educate both students and faculty, together we will form the skills to create a healthy and diverse school climate.” 

The group of students and teachers meets weekly during the remote Wednesday to continue their work and conversations. Franklin West Superintendent, Jim Tager and Director of Curriculum, Linda Keating have attended several of the meetings to offer support and resources for the student initiative.

“I joined this group because this is important to me. I believe that no one should ever be treated differently because of their race and I want to help make a difference in our school and our community” -Alaina, Grade 9

The students created and distributed a survey to the student body last week. After the holiday break, they will use their meeting time to analyze the data to help them make informed decisions about their next steps to have conversations and educate students in order to improve the school culture.

“It’s important to work in your small communities to be able to create important change, and starting at school I think is really important”.

Laurel, Grade 10

The student’s commitment to this important work is essential for all of the students of BFA now and in their future. 

“As a language teacher, my goal is to broaden and deepen students’ perspectives of other cultures and promote empathy with and understanding of other people. I am excited to see a student-led movement in our school that recognizes the importance of examining racial justice in our community, and I want to support their efforts to expand our understanding of diversity, inclusion, equity, privilege, and bias.” -Alana T., teacher

John Tague is currently Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jtague252

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