Racial Justice club to fight inequalities

Students team up with community leaders

Macy Rice

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The Students for Racial Justice club was recently organized by social studies teacher Nancy Edwards, German teacher Nanette Bergen and JAG teacher Tavis Leake in response to issues regarding racial injustice brought to the attention of teachers and administrators. Members of the club met for the first time on Oct. 25.

“Since it was our very first meeting, we talked about what we wanted to do as far as looking at issues that concern all students, but specifically students of color at Newton High School,” Edwards said. “We talked about setting some goals and when we can meet, because it’s not going to be during first or second clubs since so many people that are interested already have a first and second club.”

In previous years, there was a club which discussed solutions to similar issues. The club faded away due to a dwindling membership.

“There was a club in the past called the Heritage Panel. [Administration] said they were happy to see another club start up again. Now we just have a different name and a different purpose than the Heritage Panel,” Edwards said.

The club’s focus is discussing issues concerning racial justice, inclusion, diversity and equality of students.

“It’s really important to Ms. Bergen, Mr. Leake, myself, and other sponsors that students at Newton High School have a voice, even when the issues are things that make people uncomfortable,” Edwards said.

The club plans to collaborate with Newton Community for Racial Justice, an adult group within the community which shares an identical vision.

“Several teachers at Newton High School are on a committee called Newton Teachers for Racial Justice. We met with Newton Community for Racial Justice and we’re partnering with them to bring in speakers and possibly having some students attend some of their meetings,” Edwards said. “We hope to keep them informed on what we’re doing at the high school, and get their help when it comes to finding resources; we plan to work very closely with them.”

Sponsors and members hope to accomplish the goals of the club through the education of students.

“I hope that the club can help all people get a better understanding of the issues of inclusion, diversity and equity for all students. I think there’s a perception that since the Civil Rights movement was back in the 60s, that everything is fine now, and it’s not,” Edwards said. “In Newton and here at the high school, there are still issues that students face that we hope to educate people about and maybe try to make a change for the better.”

Senior Taylor Brewer joined the club to bring attention to issues that matter to her and hopes that other students can do the same. She has seen certain events transpire that should not be considered normal.

“I think the ‘n-word’ word is used way too much. I think it’s good that we are finally getting the club started so that students can come together and talk about the issues they see around our school,” Brewer said.

In addition, Brewer hopes to spread awareness of issues with teaching methods through the club, school and district.

“The way some teachers choose to teach certain things needs to be addressed; some say certain things that shouldn’t be said,” Brewer said.

Issues discussed by the club affect Brewer on a personal level, and she hopes to make students feel comfortable in their own skin.

“[I want to] make kids like me feel safe about being who they are and make people more aware of what’s happening,” Brewer said.