A Black History Month event at a suburban Chicago high school stirred controversy among some parents and students.
Several parents “expressed confusion and concern” after white students weren’t allowed to participate in a “Black Lives Matter” event on Feb. 27 at Oak Park and River Forest High School.
The school’s principal, Nate Rouse, hosted the event and said it was the first in a series of conversations about racial equity.
Rouse said some students and parents were concerned after learning white students weren’t allowed at the event.
“Some students and parents expressed confusion and concern about the event being for Black students only. Information about the event lacked clarity about this aspect of the conversation, and the high school is committed to improving communications in the future,” Rouse said in a release after the event. “Further conversations among and across other racial affinity groups shall take place at the high school in the coming months and into next year.”
Rouse, noting the event was planned without a review by the Board of Education, said the forum used a “racial affinity group model to engage participants in a deeper conversation around the national theme ‘Black Lives Matter.’” He said the model allows students who identify as black to speak openly.
The students talked about their experience in school, discussing the disproportionate numbers of black students in honors and Advanced Placement classes.
According to the school’s website, the student population last year was 55 percent white, 27 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic, 6 percent multiracial and 3 percent Asian.
“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,” he said.