Hundreds Turn Out To Hear What Students Have To Say About Discrimination
Over 200 students, administrators, and community members attended a student-led forum at Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High School Friday to discuss racism, sexism, and other instances of discrimination within the school.
Amanda Miller, Jillian Coelho, Brandon Botelho, Carmen Barbosa, Laurel Berryman, Mayse Dias and Ja'Loni Owens sat in front of the crowd and shared personal experiences of discrimination.
The experiences ranged from racially profiling a student because some potato salad was stolen in the field house, to suggesting a student that identifies as transgender was making up their story to get attention.
Other examples of discrimination raised were the sexual harassment within a male-dominant shop not being addressed by administrators and unequal distribution of punishment based on race and gender.
The collective charge by the group of students was that the administration, led by Superintendent Director Linda Enos, along with Academic Principal Rosanne Franco, are not fit to run the school. They believe there is a culture within the school that needs to change, and that must start at the highest level.
The students also pointed to an incident where a former teacher, Lino Cabral, posted racially charged comments on his personal Facebook page earlier this year, and how the administration handled the matter.
Owens, a senior that helped put the forum together, said after this discussion, there is no way the students' message can be ignored.
"A lot of people heard a lot of things, and I'm not sure how open people are, but I think that [Enos] definitely can't ignore it now," Owens said.
Enos apologized to the group of students and said she is committed to putting a framework in place to address their concerns. She says the issues raised in Friday's forum are not unique to this school.
"I don't think we're any different than any other place in the community. I think this is something we all have to hear. There's lessons to be learned, there are changes to be made," Enos said after the forum.
Franco agreed that some issues need to be addressed, but said students should follow the proper school procedures to address them on a case-by-case basis.
"Some of the things that they brought up are certainly conversations that we need to have, but they don't seem to want to have those conversations with us. It seems more that they want to bring them out and talk about changes we can make to the whole school versus actual individual situations," Franco said.