I initially hesitated on writing this piece because it hits very close to home for me as a local, a woman of color, and a person who lost someone I knew in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. This is an uncomfortable conversation that has been happening behind-the-scenes since I was in high school almost two decades ago. I say that so readers understand these students concerns are nothing new. They are the same concerns we devoted entire high school panels and meetings and clubs to tackling.
These are old concerns brought up again by a horrendous tragedy. It's important for readers to fully understand that as they decide their views on these children who are speaking up.
A small group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students recently called a press conference to talk about their concerns over how the school has handled the wake of the tragedy — namely by increasing police presence. These students of color want the world outside of their school fence to know that not everyone feels safer with more officers around. The officers in this predominantly white, predominantly wealthy area have had a reputation for treating people of color more harshly than others. This reputation was well-known, even in the late '90s when I was in high school.
Students want to know if anything is being done to ensure that the few students of color do not become targets — intentionally or otherwise — for these officers. They want to feel just as safe at school as their white peers, and rightfully so. These students acknowledge and admit that something must change, but they want to know: If more officers at school is a must, will there be extra training? Will there be measures to ensure equal protection? What will be done to keep "profiling" to a minimum?
The students called for a press conference, something normally highly attended, but once media outlets realized which Stoneman Douglas students wanted to speak, only eight outlets showed up. And unfortunately, almost all of them were small local outlets that will not offer enough of a platform to help their voices become a part of the larger Stoneman Douglas conversation.
One South Florida writer took the students' concerns to Twitter to help amplify their voices:
Kai says while some might feel comfort to have more police officers at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, he does not. He says it's intimidating & that black students will face most of the consequences of an overmilitarized predominantly white school. pic.twitter.com/IxyYDbbOW8— Nadege C. Green (@NadegeGreen) March 28, 2018
Tyah-Amoy a Marjorie Stoneman Douglas student said conversations about gun violence have to include police violence. She asked, the same people who showed up for #MarchForOurLives--will they show up for #StephonClark? #AltonSterling? #SandraBland? pic.twitter.com/QIhvy9gYHD— Nadege C. Green (@NadegeGreen) March 28, 2018
Twitter quickly took this very difficult conversation and ran with it:
I am the white mother of a mixed son who attended a diverse high school. After all of the things I have heard and witnessed at my child's high school (he is 24 now) I understand the concerns of these young, black students.— Leon The Cat (@pinkpower1970) March 29, 2018
Gosh, you wouldn't think there were ANY black kids at that school given the media coverage. Glad to see this!— Aimbelievable (@Aimztweet) March 30, 2018
I see you, I hear you, and I hope the conversations include your concerns because they are valid.— leslie brown (@homefried3) March 30, 2018
It’s like some people don’t remember the video of the school resource officer practically flipping the black female student out of her desk— Trev (@MarlyDee1) March 30, 2018
We all know that whatever policing or changes that were implemented to protect kids will soon be used exclusively to deal with Black and Brown students deemed "problematic."— marisol (@dirtytomato) March 30, 2018
@Phil_Lewis_ you can understand why. First off look at this mess. Then, just the presence of police & the way they are reacting towards us today makes you not want to have them in or near the school. It would be unwanted harassment by police. pic.twitter.com/seVcDgBecG— bvyron (@thebsk1) March 29, 2018
Emma opposes police in schools because of bias, but the media doesn't highlight that. Also, there's a specific, documented problem w/officers in schools disproportionately targeting Black students. Black students deserve a direct platform where their issues & voices can be heard— cricket108 (@cricket108) March 29, 2018
In this day and age they have every right to feel this way :(— TrumpisaTraitor 🇺🇸 (@CitizenPatriot2) March 29, 2018
If they aren't being heard it's due to willful ignorance. Imagine the trauma of being so untrusting of cops with guns that you would rather take your chances with the unstable with guns. That. Is. Living. Black. Every. Single. Day.— Malcolm Xtra (@rudygadsden) March 30, 2018
We know how this works & kids are right: Videos. Lack of charges & convictions. We need better police, trained to recognize unconscious bias, how to de-escalate, shoot as a last resort even if it means more police die - like that frenchman did. Until then it's a danger to POC.— A2Lintra (@A2Lintra) March 30, 2018
Implicit biases are real and have lasting impacts which is why we can never support arming teachers and need to push for continuous education among service workers of every kind: medical personal, teachers, administrators, and yes, law enforcement.— Prof. Sully (@TRACILS70) March 30, 2018
What I heard was that having more officers present at #MSD doesn't make them feel safer. It actually puts them on edge, because experience has taught them that they will be targeted because they are black. These kids have the right to feel safe at school too #BlackLivesMatter— Claire of Themyscira (@ClaireShrout) March 29, 2018
He has and I’m sure he will again. He told the news cameras that his school is 25% black and they needed to go talk to some of those kids too instead of focusing on the white students. It made an impression on me because it’s unicorn rare to see— ♒️Melissa🌞Roseanne🌚 (@MelissaRoseanne) March 30, 2018
People gave lots of reasons not to listen, like "now isn't the right time" or "the students weren't polite in delivering their message."
I was with gun reform but this... come on now. I get you don’t like having so many cops but isn’t a gun in the hands of a trained cop better then on a untrained teacher. Choose your battles. We won on getting the attachments banned. Don’t fight having a more secure school.— bryan merchán (@ryNY9) March 29, 2018
Yes now. Why should they have to wait until you are ready to talk about what is affecting them? A higher police presence doesn't always equal safer for black students.— Clayton Barnes (@dclaytonbarnes2) March 29, 2018
It doesn’t matter how polite I am. If somebody doesn’t want to hear something, it’s very hard for them to hear it. If someone also benefits from not hearing something, it is nigh impossible. Too often, politesse is an excuse for not listening.— Brick Resistant OAK (@caramida) March 29, 2018
And on tonight’s show we will be playing “Who wants to be the biggest victim”, playing for a grand showcase of mindless twitter followers and 15 minutes of fame!!!— 9th Man Q (@9thManQ) March 30, 2018
White privilege is feeling entitled to decide what issues are most critical (and their solutions) based on personal experience or benefit, without regard for the suffering, oppression and consequences for communities outside of your own.— cricket108 (@cricket108) March 29, 2018
yeah they’re just fishing for issues to be upset about. they’re worried about a situational that hasn’t even happened nor will. victim mentality. what a shame.— - (@governmentpussy) March 30, 2018
That’s the left for you 🤷🏻♀️— Diana @ Shmufkin TV 🇬🇧🇮🇱🇺🇦#FreeDankula (@ShmufkinTV) March 29, 2018
But the conversation also included hope and pride:
I’m in awe of all of these young people. I hate the reasons they’ve had to become activists but am so hopeful for the future for everyone because of the strength of their voices and their courage to stand and their bravery to push back— Lisa Cave (@heylisacave) March 29, 2018
Wow these children speaking knowledge so proud of them for bringing this out— The Stepper (@LHfdstep33) March 29, 2018
AMEN YOUR OUR FUTURE VOTERS AND I'M PROUD OF YOU ALL ❤️🖤❣️🖤— Lisa Butts (@1Sookie) March 30, 2018
Thank you for sharing this. These brave kids make an excellent point because they are in more danger from cops than from mass shooters. Those who think more officers on campus = more safety aren’t paying attention.— DedeRetiredTeacher (@retiredtxteach) March 30, 2018
Yes, don't make the same mistake the adults made and continue to make.— Ronald Callender (@prophetRonald) March 30, 2018
Young people, see that all marches and causes be inclusive. If not, nothing will change.
If changes aren't made, then we have a perfect system, and all the implications that flow from that.
I am loving this generation. They see whats wrong and are speaking up. I really hope the country can get it right for them.— Keri Brunelle (@kerilynndjea) March 30, 2018