2019 | Schools

Students: Countywide Boundary Study Could ‘Change the Course of History’

Project should focus on ending de facto segregation, students say

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Students hold signs at Monday's school board meeting advocating for the proposed countywide boundary study focus on ending de facto segregation.

Caitlynn Peetz

More than 30 Montgomery County Public Schools’ students Monday pressed the Board of Education for more diverse schools and an end to “de facto” segregation.

The students filled the board’s meeting room, holding signs reading, “We don’t condone segregation” and “End de facto segregation” as they urged board members to make diversifying schools a priority when conducting a countywide boundary study.

“The county is doing a disservice by not providing equal opportunities to all students,” said Emnet Kashay, a junior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville. “Through all of our efforts, we’ve failed to eradicate the most dangerous and detrimental segregation – de facto segregation … now our county is more segregated than ever.”

Andrea Anaya, a student at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, said as a student-athlete she has seen disparities in facilities, seemingly correlating with the number of white students enrolled at the school.

She said students at minority-majority schools have lower test scores and higher dropout rates, and more integrated schools would improve the performance of all students.

The school board in January decided it will hire an outside consultant to study school boundaries to explore ways to evenly distribute student populations throughout the county. The school board will not be required to take any action based on the consultant’s findings. A report is expected by spring 2020.

At a public hearing earlier this month, many parents opposed the boundary study, saying changing boundaries will decrease their home values and there’s no proof diverse schools achieve better academic performance.

But Anaya argued a large group of minority parents support the boundary study with a focus on diversifying schools, but those parents are unable to make time to advocate at meetings.

“I assure you that my mother would love to engage in my school if she didn’t have to work two jobs to make ends meet,” Anaya said.

School board members said public hearings about the study will be conducted at various locations around the county to gather a mix of opinions to shape the scope of the project.

Michael Solomon, a Springbrook High School junior and finalist for a position on the State Board of Education, said boundary changes could “change the course of history and impact the whole community for the better.”

Richard Montgomery freshman Uma Fox said diverse educational environments teach students real-world skills, including how to communicate with people from all backgrounds.

“When we continue on the path of school segregation, even our most privileged students do not accrue this vital skill,” Fox said. “And most importantly, we must change the narrative from one of those kids versus my kids to one of all of our kids.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com