West Genesee high schoolers sparking change

Local News

CAMILLUS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Just two weeks ago, more than 100 West Genesee high schoolers walked out of school in protest of racially insensitive photos circulating on social media within the district.

Within the last year, two photos have surfaced, showing West Genesee students taking part in what’s called “The George Floyd Challenge,” re-enacting his death.

Since the walk-out, things have changed. The students met last week with administrators, faculty members, and some board members. They said it was a productive conversation they believe is going to bring on change within the district.

“It’s change that should have happened a long time ago. And so I hate that such a bad thing had to happen in order for us to get here,” said Nadia Thomas, a senior at West Genesee High School.

In that meeting with more than a dozen students was the superintendent, board president, the vice president of the Board of Education, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, the executive principal of the high school, director of secondary education/MS principal, and two teachers.

The students laid out the following “demands” from the district:

  • Increased opportunities for student voice through a proposed BOE Student Liaison position.
  • Curriculum Review with alignment to contemporary issues, historical perspectives, encouraging equity, inclusion, and restorative justice.
  • Creation of a staff position to oversee student groups and provide support or professional development in needed areas.
  • Training in social justice, anti-racism, equity, and inclusion.
  • Creating staff positions for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Review recruitment and hiring positions.

All things the administration told students they’re working on. But it will take time.

“It was nice to just hear that I got through to people and just to know that people are with me,” Thomas said.

Superintendent David Bills responding to the students’ efforts saying, “Our students were professional, respectful, and passionate about their concerns. I was impressed and proud of them as they organized their concerns and facilitated discussion.”

The students have promised they will be holding the adminsistration accountable to these changes, long after they graduate.

“I just want them to have a safe space to where they feel like they can come to school and not feel like they’re being judged or talked about just because of their skin color,” said Rylee Ellithorpe, a senior at West Genesee High School.

There will be another meeting with stakeholders soon.

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