The Education Justice Collective, a group of youth-driven organizations including Student Voice, Our Turn, The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team and others, has convened students across the country to launch the Move School Forward campaign, a set of ten guiding principles regarding what students believe schools must prioritize in the fall amidst COVID-19. Students’ priorities include elevating student voice, supporting marginalized students, closing the digital divide, adopting anti-racist policies, funding schools equitably and more.
The Move School Forward campaign advocates that students be full participants in decisions related to their education and advances students’ vision for a just future for schools. Instead of returning to normal this fall, students demand that educators, lawmakers and other decision makers work with a diverse group of young people to move school forward toward equitable learning opportunities for all.
As demonstrated by the past few weeks, young people are prepared to take powerful, direct civic action on issues that affect their lives. Adults who currently have power over students’ educations should ensure their experiences and concerns are heard and acted on, relating to issues such as the disproportionate impact and value of policing in schools, the need for increased support services such as counselors, social workers and support staff, inequitable treatment and resourcing and more.
The full set of guiding principles, along with the form for organizations to sign onto the Move School Forward campaign as a youth-driven Education Justice Collective member or an adult-driven supporting organization, can be found at moveschoolforward.org.
Evon Mahesh, a team member at Student Voice, a student-led nonprofit organization focused on combating educational inequity, and a first-year at the University of Rochester said, “As schools begin planning for possible reopening in the fall, one thing is certain: going back to the way things were before is simply not an option. The inequities exacerbated by COVID-19 and the uprising for racial justice taking place in our country are drivers of a wholly unique year in education ahead of us. These guiding principles were developed in response to current events, to address and propose solutions to the ways schools have historically harmed students that are being highlighted in our current health crisis and societal shift.”
Alexis Campbell, a team member at Student Voice, a student-led nonprofit organization focused on combating educational inequity, and a senior at Fayette County High School in Fayetteville, Georgia said, “Many students spend years in school trying to meet standards that ignore their complex life experiences, which has perpetuated racial injustices in schools for far too long. In order to change that, schools must be willing to take steps to allow students to have a voice and power within school. The Move School Forward principles were specifically developed to change the way we view education and push schools to become a safe space for all students.”
Joshua Omolola, the 2019-20 Student Member of the Board of Education of Prince George's County Public Schools and a senior at Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Maryland said, “It’s imperative that we recognize the impact race has on public education overall and on individual districts. We must undergo rigorous changes that encourage recognizing implicit bias and prejudice and when we recognize it, must implement purposeful training to encourage our success. Racial injustice has for many years plagued people of color in our education system and our school climate will not reach its full potential without a unified consensus for change.”
Maodan Tohouri, a team member at Student Voice, a student-led nonprofit organization focused on combating educational inequity, and a junior at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, California said, “This moment has confirmed what many Black students already knew: anti-Blackness is prevalent in our country and our schools. We cannot address systemic issues without centering the voices of those most affected in changing policy and repairing harm. It is imperative that we commit to co-creating an equitable school system.”
About Student Voice:
Student Voice is a by-students, for-students 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in all 50 states to equip students as storytellers, organizers and institutional partners who advocate for student-driven solutions to educational inequity. Through direct civic action, Student Voice helps students hold their schools and surrounding communities accountable to the Student Bill of Rights and prepares them to become lifelong agents of social and political change. For more information about Student Voice, visit our website at StuVoice.org and follow @Stu_Voice and #StuVoice on social media.
About Move School Forward
As we are inundated with calls for “reopening schools” and returning to normal, it is crucial that we demand a just future for our education system that includes students as full participants in the decision-making process, from the school to state levels. Where people are reimagining the future of schools, the voices of the most marginalized students are consistently sidelined. Our collective of youth-driven organizations has outlined key principles to move school forward. Read our demands.