Highschool staff broadens viewers for civil rights discussions

WESTBROOK – The high school’s Civil Rights Team virtually shares their point of view with a larger audience to make the school inclusive for all students.

The Civil Rights Team, which emerged from a nationwide initiative over three years ago, focuses on issues of equity in schools and on providing perspectives to portray diversity in the student body.

As part of the “Tea Talks” series, the team, which includes around 15 to 20 regular members, held discussions and workshops with students and teachers about the experiences of students from different backgrounds in Westbrook.

While classes may have met with the team in the school library for the past few years, the new virtual conversations have attracted more staff and students than before due to the pandemic Senior Noor Abduljaleel.

Abduljaleel said she was attracted to the team in her sophomore year after moving from teaching English to honorary and AP courses, where she often felt at odds with the curriculum, which relied on Eurocentric views rather than questions and Middle Eastern stories that she dealt with.

In the English courses, she said, she was with students who were also “newbies”.

“So it felt safer as an environment, but Switching In honor and AP it was very different, ”said Abduljaleel. “It was hard to be the only person who was different from the rest of the group, especially in terms of content, experiences and stories. I felt like a runaway. “

The team, Abduljaleel said, wants to facilitate that transition by reaching out to students who may also feel left out, while sharing their opinions and thoughts with the rest of the school to make students of color and other backgrounds “feel heard.” . “

“Our students are super motivated to make people feel comfortable,” said teacher moderator Leah Douglass. “They met and worked with other groups like our multicultural group or the Black Student Union. ”

Previous tea talks have focused on racial, religious, gender and sexual justice in the curriculum. These talks are particularly necessary after the attack on the Washington Capitol last week, Abduljaleel.

“It mostly feels like a support system to us. There is a small community where people have the same feelings or perspectives as you, not necessarily the same – I have different perspectives and thoughts – but we need a place in history to listen at this point, ”she said.

Abduljaleel and the team are working on a series of school-wide discussions.

“Students go into a breakout room to discuss a specific topic or prompt and create a dialogue about that prompt,” she said. “The Civil Rights Team with other clubs in our high school will be attending the school-wide dialogue session on the events and ongoing dynamics of the past week in DC and other issues we face on a daily basis as a nation.”

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