Student Council Hosts Race To End Racism Forum

Student Council hosted forum over period of two days

Students+attend+the+Race+to+End+Racism+forum+during+their+lunch+period+to+discuss+and+listen+to+Student+Council+leaders+Kendall+Ferguson%2C+Nina+Kazi+and+Luke+Sloan.+One+of+the+main+goals+of+the+forum+this+year+was+for+students+to+learn+how+you+can+make+a+difference+by+spreading+kindness+and+standing+up+for+those+who+have+experienced+racism.+The+forum+helped+open+up+that+it+discussion+with+the+student+body+in+order+to+make+more+progress+in+the+future%2C+junior+Kieley+Stallings+said.+

Photo courtesy of John Hinton

Students attend the Race to End Racism forum during their lunch period to discuss and listen to Student Council leaders Kendall Ferguson, Nina Kazi and Luke Sloan. One of the main goals of the forum this year was for students to learn how you can make a difference by spreading kindness and standing up for those who have experienced racism. “The forum helped open up that it discussion with the student body in order to make more progress in the future,” junior Kieley Stallings said.

The Student Council hosted their sixth annual “Race to End Racism” forum for students to participate in conservations and have their voices heard in the initiative on March 30 and 31. 

The mission statement for the campaign is to discuss solutions to the ongoing issue of racism through the collaboration of a diverse group of students, and to create a positive atmosphere for the future generations of our nation. 

John Hinton,  the Student Council sponsor, came up with the idea for the forum while brainstorming ways to better the community six years ago.

“Here at HP, students were recognizing our shortcomings addressing the race issue, and specifically, there were some hateful messages being directed towards some students that needed to be addressed district-wide,” Hinton said. “So, Student Council chose the topic of racism.”

The first forum was in 2016 and was hosted at HP with 12 Dallas-Fort Worth schools and about 100 participants. The forum was then moved to Southern Methodist University, but it had too many participants and moved to Park Cities Baptist Church. For the last three years, over 30 schools and over 400 students attended each time.

Due to the coronavirus, Student Council did not get to host their forum with other schools. However, it was an opportunity to share the forum for all HP students at the high school.

Junior Kieley Stallings helped prepare the forum and encouraged other students to join.

“I wanted to get involved in the forum because I think it’s a critical topic that isn’t talked about enough,” Stallings said. “I wanted to be a part of Highland Park starting that discussion with the student body. I also honestly just wanted to hear everyone’s thoughts on it.”

The main topics discussed were examples of racist comments and micro-aggressions aimed at our minority students by their peers throughout their time in HPISD, as well as in the classroom where they felt like some teachers have sometimes singled them out based on the color of their skin.

“Brainstorming was done to address these issues in our school and community,” Hinton said. “Ideas included: expanding this conversation to the whole student body, teacher training on this issue, diversify curriculum, inclusion council, posters and announcements addressing diversity, normalizing conversations in the classroom on the topic of race and diversity and teaching elementary and middle school students on this topic as well.”

Student Council hopes that the main effect of the forum is to encourage other schools to start the conversation on this topic by hosting school and community forums.

“The most important thing is to recognize we are all one race, the human race and that we all have far more commonalities than differences,” Hinton said. “The forum is about relationships. It is awesome to watch teenagers handle this very mature topic in such a responsible manner.”

Students felt that it helped open the discussion of the topic of racism.

I think it’s important that there is no more blatant racism in our school as well as having the student body recognize micro-aggressions and why those are also important to put an end to,” Stallings said.

Additionally, Student Council is in its fourth year of promoting Project Respect. This is the first-ever district-wide campaign promoted by Student Council. The students go to the elementary schools and middle school to talk to 4th through 8th graders about different topics each month: respect, kindness, diversity, honesty, leadership, empathy and integrity. This campaign was a result of our forum and due to issues that many of our students were facing. 

“At the end of the day we are all people who yearn to be loved, recognized, valued, respected, and treated fairly,” Hinton said. “So, the message of valuing people and honoring our relationships is huge.”