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A School Community With New Challenges

By Melanie Holland, CEI Intern.

Details continue to emerge regarding the tragic death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American young man, in Ferguson, Missouri. After his death, the city and community of Ferguson erupted into protests‘”both violent and peaceful’“against the believed racism that led a police officer to shoot an unarmed 18 year-old multiple times on Saturday afternoon.

Ferguson is a community of 21,000 people. It’s a city of 6 square miles, about 10 miles north of downtown St. Louis. About two-thirds of the residents are African-American; the median income is $37,000, which is about $10,000 lower than the state average. Nearly 1/4th of the residents live below the poverty level.

While we, as an organization and group of individuals, cannot and should not comment on the accuracy of any version of the event, we know that regardless of what is determined in court or by the FBI, this event will strongly affect the psyches, feelings, and emotional-state of Jennings’ students as they begin their first day of school, today Tuesday the 12th. Originally, students were scheduled to begin school on Monday, but Jennings School District cancelled, citing safety concerns. Much of the rioting and looting occurred close to many of its schools, and school officials did not want any of their students walking.

Now more than ever, school leaders, counselors, teachers, and support staff will need to focus and be aware of the social and emotional needs of their students. This event will be weighing heavily on many of their students’”children who may have known Michael Brown, children whose parents may be involved in protests, children who may no longer feel ‘safe’ around authority, whether it is police or at school. It is clear that the Jennings School District is showing the beginnings of a conscious-based mindset, but once school is session, things cannot and will not ‘go back to normal.’

It is pivotal for the schools to remain conscious of the needs of their students and their Community. Children are not blind to the racial struggles of their communities, especially in such high-tension and tragic situations like the death of Michael Brown. Our hearts go out to Michael and his family. They also go out to all the schools, as they hopefully work over these next few months to provide increased stability and community for their students, reassuring them that their schools will remain ‘safe’ places to be and learn.


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