They started popping up in Delaware about a week ago: Instagram accounts that post anonymous accounts of students of color facing racism in Delaware private, vo-tech and public schools. The accounts were inspired by the IG account @blackmainlinespeaks, where scores of Black students at predominantly white Main Line Philadelphia schools have shared their stories.
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The Delaware accounts are @wilmpsspeak, the first and most active account, with a focus on Wilmington-area private schools; @nccvtspeaks, representing the diverse vo-tech schools in New Castle County; and the smaller @depubschoolsspeak, the public school version.
None operate exactly like @blackmainlinespeaks, which accepts accounts from Black students only and is focused primarily on racism. @wilmpsspeak includes many posts about maneuvering a religious school as an (often closeted) LBGTQ student, as well as posts about sexism and sexual harassment. @nccvtspeaks focuses on students of color, but, disturbingly, sexual violence has become a focus, with the moderators committing to taking any action they can, as well as creating a list of demands for the administration, including:
- Demanding a thorough investigation of teacher mentioned in accounts
- A reconstructed curriculum reflecting all races and ethnicities
- A Black Student Union at all NCCVT schools
- Action taken to diversify faculty, especially at the predominantly white schools
- Disciplinary plans for students and staff using derogatory terms toward others
- A diversity and inclusion team in all schools
- Racial bias training for students and faculty
@depubschoolsspeak filled quickly with accounts primarily from magnet and charter schools — mostly Cab Calloway School of the Arts, which has a history of student protest against racist treatment; Charter School of Wilmington, which is one of three schools named in a long-unanswered ACLU complaint about civil rights violations in 2014; and magnet Delaware Military Academy. (Charter is also seen a lot on the private school account, despite not actually being a private school.)
Technical.ly reached out to the moderators of these three accounts, and all responded agreeing to an anonymous interview. @depubschoolsspeak ultimately did not respond to questions and the account, for reasons unknown, has been silent for nearly a week.
Moderators confirmed that they are or were students in the system their pages represent. The @nccvtspeaks mods disclosed that they are two rising seniors at St. Georges Technical High School.
Since the students are anonymous, we will call them Private and Vo-Tech. Here’s what they shared.
Private: “Pages like this are needed to spur change in our community by validating the voices of those who have been silenced. This page encourages marginalized students, alumni, and faculty to freely share their experiences and see that they are supported by their broader community. It is so necessary to show how many marginalized people were negatively effected or made uncomfortable because of their identities while at these schools, because realization and acknowledgment is the first step to real change. Additionally, this page can be therapeutic for marginalized people to finally speak out and see that they are and were not alone.”
Vo-Tech: “The platform grew very quickly and we were very shocked by the amount of responses. It was very upsetting to read the stories of students in the district. We hear the pain and trauma these students had endured in school, but we were happy that we could give those students a platform to speak up and be heard.”
Private: “We are shocked with how quickly the stories came in, but we are not at all surprised that we have upwards of 1,000 submissions. Each one of us that helps to run this page never felt supported and experienced multiple negative incidents in private school, and we all have friends who had multiple negative experiences. None of the submissions necessarily shocked us, but some submissions regarding how administration swept things under the rug because the accused students parents were donors or didn’t know how to handle race-related incidents were worrying.”
Vo-Tech: “VT schools need to promote a more representative environment for students of color, not only within the student body, but also through the staff body. Vo-Tech need to respect and acknowledge the voices of students. Not only listen, but act, on what’s being verbalized to them.”
Private: “We do believe these accounts will lead to changes in the system. Students and alumni have been contacted by current administrations of these private schools to engage in discourse that will hopefully lead to change, people have been asked to make action items, and most of all people are finally opening their eyes to the reality of systemic oppression and the often lifelong effects it has on students. This account and students who have submitted have done the work to bring attention to the issue. Now the onus is on the schools to take these accounts seriously and actually enact meaningful, not just superficial, change.”
Vo-Tech: “For our page specifically it’s already making changes in the system and speeding up the process for things the district has been working on now. They’re looking into creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion team. They’ve also started a curriculum review but we don’t want to stop there. We want all of our demands to be heard and acted on.”
Private: “Something that we’ve noted amongst negative responses to this page are ways in which people are trying to police the way we do things. We did go through a bit of reform to make the page as effective as possible, but few people still criticize the types of stories we post along with the way in which we post. We’ve noticed that people are much more open to criticizing and policing the voices of the unheard rather than criticizing actual negative incidents. We have also had few people work night and day to discredit this account and harass submitters and the people working behind this account. It goes to show that while our society is evolving, we still have a long way to go.”
Vo-Tech: “Administration has been very vocal about how they feel about the page. Little to no new action steps has been up taken, no new policies formed, nothing new created. Only, they have vocalized what they’ve already been doing/planning on doing as a district. Yet, before this page, these things they say they’ve been doing have barely been implemented, if already not effective. The district has prioritized working with us (the page reps) and encourages us to use our voices, at their table. It’s hard to make the distinction between if it’s actually genuine and are truly concerned for their students, or because they want to maintain the district’s name and ‘outstanding’ reputation.”
Some schools, for their part, have responded to the pressure of the “speak” accounts on their own Instagram accounts:
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A message to Black Archmere Alumni & In Solidarity Signatories, from Archmere Headmaster Dr. Michael A. Marinelli Ed.D. ‘76 and Principal, Mrs. Katie Eissler-Thiel. To read the full document, kindly copy and paste this link: https://bit.ly/2NY5PgQ or visit our Facebook page.
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Tower Hill is following the experiences shared through @wilmpsspeaks and continues to engage students, faculty, parents and alumni in important dialogue about social justice efforts at our school and in our country. Tower Hill’s Commitments Toward Social Justice can be found at towerhill.org/socialjustice (in bio), including a link to share feedback with school administrators. We are listening, and we want to hear from you. Civil discourse happens best when we share and listen in respectful and meaningful ways. Tower Hill is committed to engaging with courage, empathy and integrity.
Will there be meaningful change in the way Delaware schools, so notorious for their segregation, operate? We’ll be keeping our eyes on it.-30-
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