Under colonialism, “Back to school” is really “Back to jail” for African students

Pinellas County opened its gates for our K-12 grade public school students on August 10th. Popular television shows and local news programs portrayed the last few days of summer vacation as parents going out to look for the new deals on school supplies, engaged in the struggle of finding the perfect outfit for the first day back or reinforcing bedtimes again, but let’s not forget that back-to-school time isn’t the same for everyone.

Upon arrival, Gibbs High School (my school) Principal Reuben Hepburn began his school-wide famous morning announcements, which consists of greeting students for another school year. Unfortunately, they’re not famous because they’re greeting and welcoming, they’re famous because students hate hearing them in the morning.

Hepburn continued his routine of reminding students that “cell phones should be turned off and put away, if not they will be confiscated and a parent will have to come at the end of the school day and retrieve the cell phone.”

This quote is something that is drilled into his students’ heads on a daily basis and will be said over the intercom daily until the last day of school. You would expect to hear other things in morning announcements, such as the lunch menu for that day, upcoming events for sports, etc., but no. You can expect to hear the principal of your school push for the correction of behavior rather than what school is envisioned to be: a place of “learning.”

Now let us move on to the rest of your first day of school. Sorry, I couldn’t possibly speak on the issues of coming back to school without mentioning these “resource officers.”

We were met with police escorts to lunch, being locked inside the lunch room, constant police vehicles circling and driving through the campus and the constant pacing of administrators up and down hallways, just waiting to stop an African and question their whereabouts.

You can’t even walk to certain parts of the school because administrators and “resource officers” have been placed to block certain stairwells, hallways and entrances to different parts of the school. Can you think of another government institution that prohibits the movement of the people inside at these lunch times on a daily basis?

If you thought about jail, then you are very correct—and that’s sad.

But let’s move on from lunch. We have came to the end of our day and afternoon announcements have come on basically being a repeat of what occurred that morning.

We were informed of bus route changes and upcoming events, but what is an announcement from Principal Hepburn without reminding the students that they are restricted from certain luxuries while in school?

This is the African youth’s reality for the first day of school, and any other regular day of school for that matter. So no, we cannot allow television shows and local news reports to speak for us going back to school, well at least under Pinellas County’s district.

To correctly address this issue, we need a way for the black community to decide what the school system teaches, as well as how administrators and the entire administrative body operate with students.

Thankfully, I’ve seen this on two candidates’ platforms: Jesse Nevel for Mayor and Eritha “Akile” Cainion for District 6. Vote Jesse and Akile on Aug. 29 or today from your mail-in ballot!



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