The headline above may be disconcerting. Nobody wants to see that title connected to their school. Unfortunately, this is the reality at Chamblee. And it needs to end. Right now.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry. No questions will be unanswered by the end of this article. But let me warn you: before you say that you are not a part of the problem, let me stop and say that you are. I am. We all are.
Here’s some background into this pressing issue: at the end of last year, we, the members of the Chamblee community, were informed that 232 new students would be transferring into our school and leaving the Cross Keys district. This stemmed from overcrowding Cross Keys High School has been experiencing for years. The gross injustice the students and families of Cross Keys had been enduring apparently reached a boiling point for our thoughtful, insightful county officials (like it hadn’t been a systemic concern before), and they decided redistricting was due.
Now to the present day: we have “welcomed” 232 new members of our community into the confines of our bright, modern school. We have “welcomed” their differences, we have “welcomed” their presence, and we have “welcomed” their contributions. We have “welcomed” the newest members of the Chamblee family like no group of people anywhere should be welcomed: with discrimination, with vulgarity, with insensitivity.
There are many of you that would disagree. “Sure, there are a few students who have probably acted in a hateful manner,” you may say, “but CCHS is known for being an extremely diverse and accepting community.” You are so right, but you are also so wrong.
A Cross Keys teacher, whom I had the utmost pleasure of interviewing in this past May’s edition on the very issue of redistricting, wrote a blog post on this “welcoming” of transfer students into our community. It was certainly not the most eloquently written piece; blanket statements were made, tension was created, and people expressed their opposition. However, this teacher’s emotional connection to the situation can explain her anger, and even if some of the hasty generalizations were unfounded and unwarranted, she, and teachers here at Chamblee, made clear to me the damning role of bystanders in this situation.
So there is no reason to unleash a barrage of attacks on a woman who was merely speaking her opinion. Your attention paid to her will achieve nothing, especially not a solution, and you will remain the bystander that many, including myself, have become.
Claiming that this is isolated is the first mistake one makes as a guilty spectator. No, you may not be causing the problem, but as of right now, you are not a part of the solution either. Secondly, you have acknowledged the controversy, but have done nothing to resolve it. You heard the inappropriate chants at the football game. You listened to your peers spew untrue sentiments regarding the lowering of test scores because of the new students. You heard your son or daughter mention the profane statements on the bathroom wall.
And instead of standing up for those whose respect has been torn apart, you stood by and let the virus of lies and deceit disperse. Now, the damage done has left students wishing they weren’t going to this school. This is disgraceful.
I am not just blaming you all. I blame myself as well. As student body vice president, I have not done my part in defending my peers and their pride. I have not countered the hateful rhetoric of those that have tarnished our school’s reputation in the eyes of many. I have not fulfilled my responsibility to be the leader my fellow students deserve.
I have decided to change that. Now, I will not let their voices go unheard. I will not allow others to delegitimize the standing of their fellow students. I call on everyone to do the same.
We must have conversations about how to change the atmosphere at our school. I walk the halls every day and know that there is so much being held in. There are those that fear expressing their troubles. This exists in our society, and is beginning to show its ugliest form at Chamblee.
It is time that we swallow our pride to improve our school culture. There is no need to succumb to the pressure of trying to fit in by sacrificing human decency. If your friends truly value you, they won’t ridicule your fight for equality and justice; they will stand behind you and support you. I have suffered from this cowardice before, but no more.
It is time that we as a community begin fostering more discussion and awareness of racism and discrimination in our school. This issue may have surfaced with a redistricting move, a blog post, writings on walls, and behavior at a football game, but it has been around much longer than we may think.
Chamblee is a microcosmic example of a serious societal dilemma: discrimination goes unmentioned and unsolved in our society. Bad examples are set outside of Chamblee’s walls, but we cannot become that example by pushing this issue aside. Our school is a shining light of achievement and inclusivity, but we cannot compromise all that we have worked so hard to build. It is time to reverse this trend. We are all a part of the problem. We can all be a part of the solution, together. Join me.