Friday, Feb. 27 – An estimated 350 students and faculty from Oak Park and River Forest High School who identify themselves as Black gathered at the Little Theatre on campus to participate in a panel led by Principal Nate Rouse. The goal of the seminar was to discuss ways to support one another and create a positive change at the school, according to a press release from the OPRF Communications Department.
There was concern that the event was available exclusively to Black students, however, it was open to all students and faculty. OPRF has since expressed commitment to improved communication for all racial affinity group discussions in the coming months and into next year, according to the press release.
The forum, which was the first in a series of conversations regarding racial equality, was centered on the national theme, “Black Lives Matter.”
“Panelists and audience members talked about their positive experiences coming to OPRF from schools that were either nearly all White or all Black, the disproportionately low numbers of Black students in honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and ways to address disparities in the discipline system,” according to the press release.
“This was a very positive conversation where our most disenfranchised students were able to give voice to their experiences and hopes for the future,” said Superintendent Dr. Steven Isoye.
The panel was an opportunity for students who identify as Black to speak honestly, according to Principal Rouse. He continued, “I believe that the discussion will help us as a school begin talking about race in a deeper and more meaningful way than ever before—and most important, produce change.”
The school district has plans to look at ways it can address disproportionate student outcomes that are predictable by race, according to the press release. The “Black Lives Matter” discussion on Friday was the first component in kick-starting the strategy, and there will be similar conversations taking place in the future.