By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
MOORESTOWN – Moorestown High School graduate Quinton Law called the Black Lives Matter march June 2 in his suburban town “pretty historic.”
But participants and supporters of that march have refused to let the single-day protest against police brutality and racial injustice be just a brief moment in time. On Monday, the newly formed the Moorestown Alumni for Racial Equity and Inclusion (MAREI) posted a 30-page document for reform in Moorestown schools to make it more responsive to the racial climate.
The document was posted on the group’s website Monday afternoon, calling it “our vision of a fairer, more equitable environment for students in our school district. We bring our expertise and our passion to this cause, and hope these are reflected in the finished product.”
“We wanted to do something, making Moorestown a more inclusive space,” said Law, a former standout student-athlete and a recent graduate of Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I. “I think the school board will be receptive. This is based off of a statement they put out after the [George Floyd incident last month]. It seems like they are ready for that conversation.”
The document identified three goals for the district “in order to make it a more socially responsible environment for all students.”
The goals include:
*Engaging in systematic, district-wide efforts to educate faculty, staff, and students about
inequality and discrimination and empower them to create an inclusive environment;
*Fostering new understandings of existing district curriculum and proposing both alternative and
additional measures for learning and student engagement;
*Creating opportunities for students to advocate for themselves and each other in extra-curricular
settings in order to combat inequality and discrimination.
“I’m immensely proud of the document that we put together and the hard work that went into it,” said Harry Lewis, a 2014 Moorestown graduate who earned his bachelor’s degree from the University Delaware and master’s at George Washington University.
“One of the reasons I think it’s so important is that it asks concrete things of the school district and the community and provides constructive solutions rather than simply identifying problems or pointing fingers. This moment feels like it has so much potential for positive change and I’m optimistic that our document provides a road map, not only for our own school district but any others who find value in it, to create lasting tangible improvements for current students.”
Under education and inclusivity, the plan called for creating an administrative position for
equity and inclusion; mandating implicit bias and racial sensitivity training; engaging students and faculty in development activities; reviewing the district’s harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) policy; eliminating out-of-school suspensions; publicize demographic data for
disciplinary infractions; and continuing to recruit and retain teachers of color while expanding the outreach efforts to multicultural candidates.
The curriculum the plan asks for a review existing texts and identify new ways of engaging with them; incorporate new texts into the classroom and fund new courses; and utilize existing class time to teach about injustice.
In the student engagement segment, the document seeks the creation of new leadership opportunities for students around inclusivity; implementation of student-led school-wide
activities to combat discrimination; and the development of a mentorship program for students of color; while creating a foster a district-wide alumni network.
Sydney Gluck, who graduated in 2015 also earned a degree for the University of Delaware, said the document symbolizes their commitment and loyalty to their community.
“As a Moorestown graduate, I am optimistic about the way this document will inspire growth at the high school,” Gluck said. “I want a Moorestown High School where students and teachers feel represented and important. I hope to see students start investing in their school experience by taking real leadership roles and using their voices to take ownership of their education.”
The idea for the document started in MAREI’s Facebook group, showing the power social media continues to play in bringing people of all races together.
“A Facebook group formed [after the protest] and we wanted to do something to make Moorestown a more inclusive space,” said Law, a 2015 African-American Mooretown graduate. “We decided to make a document, a petition to present to the board of education.”
Law said from those discussions about the petition grew into the 30-page document.
“Our group now has over 1,000 followers on Facebook and almost 1,000 on Instagram,” Law said. “Our posts are getting share and there’s a lot of interest. A lot of people want to help out. We think what we’re doing is not only good for the town and much needed, but could be used as a model across the country.”
Law said he has heard from others from Virginia, Florida and other locations along the East Coast as they developed their document for the Moorestown schools.
By most measures, Moorestown in an affluent Philadelphia suburb in Burlington County, with 62 percent of adults aged 25-and-up holding at least a bachelor’s degree with its median household income ranging about $140,700, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Whites make up more than 85 percent of the population, while the Black percentage is 5.3 percent and Asian population is 6.6 percent. Which all makes it even more impressive that a Black Lives Matter-related movement and call for racial justice has taken hold here.
Similar communities have often complained at times that “outsiders” like the NAACP or other civil rights groups have come in to protest and demand racial justice without knowing the community.
But this document to the school board was formed by Moorestown school alumni, those who have spent most, or all, of their lives in the township and know it the best. Law said it has been “super satisfying” to see his former classmates and those he grew up with sign on to bringing attention to the challenges of African-American students and other people of color in the schools.
During the June 2 march in Moorestown, a crowd mostly made up of whites along with African-Americans and other groups chanted “Black Lives Matter,” and “No Justice, No Peace.” They were joined state Sen. Troy Singleton and U.S. Rep. Andy Kim.
Law said, though, the group does not intend for the document to be the final word or its only effort to bring racial inclusiveness to the community. He said members plan on attending the next school board meeting July 16 in hopes to engage the school board on next steps based on the document.
“We’re hoping to get some time on the agenda to converse with the board about our document and our plans,” Law said. “Until then, there are a few things we’re trying to work out to keep this momentum going. We’re doing things to raise awareness of our plan.”
He said he hopes a new alumni group will emerge from the effort as a new networking tool to engage with current students.
“We want to use this platform and show that the community supports what we’re doing and the community expects change,” Law said. “Now is the time to be in front of racial equity in our schools.”
MAREI’s young members have already moved mountains with the march and document this month.
Photos courtesy of Quinton Law
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