As a White school social worker who worked in an urban district that primarily serves students and families of color, I am still livid that another Black son…partner…brother…friend…father, was taken with the murder of George Floyd. I wonder how my former students and their families are coping. And with the whole wider world finally talking openly about systemic racism these past few months, I wonder how my former students might be reflecting on their own experiences at school. I too am reflecting back on my time in schools but possibly in a much different way than they are. Along with the ever-present feeling of “I should have done more”, I find myself asking “Why didn’t I?”.
No matter how we get involved, without a doubt, school social workers are in a place of leadership. While leading with good intention is a start, is it enough? When considering our role in pushing the lead to more equitable school systems and work of the like, the harsh reality is – probably not.
These moments are important. Not just for our staff, our community, or for this student in particular, but for all students, all students of color, and especially all Black students, to know that they have a voice and it is valued and important. I learned more from him during these meetings on how to be a better teacher than I did during all of my years in college.
We wrote a biography of the group and zine — Students Strike Back is a student-led group created during the Chicago Teachers Union one day strike in 2016. Students are neighborhood high school students in Chicago Public Schools from the southwest side. Students are determined to have their voice in education issues. “No decisions about us without us”. As students who must endure the conditions of Chicago Public Schools, the group is determined to fight for education equity. For far too long, students have endured budget cuts after budget cuts. It is time for education to be taken seriously.