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Black Student Union members speak out against splitting up JCPS

Jefferson County Public Schools students speak during a rally at Roots 101 African American Museum.
Jess Clark
Jefferson County Public Schools students speak during a rally at Roots 101 African American Museum.

Members of two Black student unions in Jefferson County Public Schools spoke out Wednesday against calls to break up the Louisville school district.

BSU members from duPont Manual High School and Louisville Male High School held a forum at the Roots 101 African American Museum to share concerns about the proposal and urge action among fellow students.

“We want a more diverse and equitable future for JCPS and we believe this proposal is not the way to do that,” 17-year-old Manual student Romaro Knight told the audience of about 40 students, parents, JCPS staff and community members.

“What scares me most is the segregation part of it,” Tianna Ennis, 17, said.

Because of decades of racist housing policies, Louisville is a racially and economically segregated city. JCPS was created in 1975 by a court-ordered integration plan that merged the majority-white county school system and the more diverse city school system.

Manual BSU president Asia Leach agreed with Ennis that splitting up JCPS would resegregate schools.

“With this proposal we would initially be going back to that sort of thing,” Leach said. “And we saw what came from that and how it didn’t work.”

Leach and other BSU members advised students to contact their lawmakers and school board members to share their thoughts on the plan.

“Adults that are voicing these proposals are not considering the students’ perspective,” Leach said.

The students who participated all expressed fears that dividing JCPS would limit access to the prestigious magnet schools they attend.

“I worked really hard to get into this school,” said a Manual ninth-grader named Derek. He said it would be “devastating” if he couldn’t attend because lawmakers divided the district.

Sixteen-year-old Rahni Allen felt similarly. She studies theater at the Manual’s Youth Performing Arts School, and said she’s not sure the high school closest to her home has the same robust theater offerings.

“That would be gone — that would be taken away from me,” she said.

Jefferson County Republican Rep. Jason Nemes has said previously that he believes there is a way to split JCPS without limiting access to schools like Manual.

Students say they organized the event and created the presentation themselves and invited speakers — though they had help from JCPS’ Department of Equity and Poverty in securing a location at the museum.

In addition to the students, other speakers included Louisville Urban League President Lyndon Pryor, who said dividing JCPS would be “incredibly detrimental.”

Pryor had high praise for the students’ activism.

“I appreciate you for being leaders for even adults,” he said. “We can learn a whole lot and can continue to learn a whole lot from you all.”

Students also invited Delquan Dorsey, from JCPS’ Department of Equity and Poverty.

“I am a JCPS employee so technically I cannot tell you what to do,” Doresy said. “But I can inform you.”

Dorsey told students that the district’s recent commitments to racial equity are at risk, including efforts to increase the racial diversity of staff, and policies such as the Racial Equity Analysis Protocol, a tool staff use to evaluate whether current or proposed practices may have unintended consequences for students of color.

Manual and Male’s BSU leaders say they want to hold more meetings and invite BSU members from schools across the district.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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