“We had no regrets … because we made the right decision!” – Mildred Favors Dixon.
A Georgia high school in Pike County officially graduated the Class of 1969 this year. Talk about a hold up! In the spring of 1969, the Pike County Superintendent decided to withhold the diplomas because the students chose to exercise their constitutional right and hold a peaceful protest.
In the 1960’s, students peacefully protested against racial discrimination and inequality in America. It was a time that required the presence and voices of youth to help make necessary change. Today is such a time for our youth to speak up and act on their rights. Our youth voices speaking out against segregation in school, inequitable funding, improved resources and curriculums that reflect and represent all Americans.
Nearly 50 years later and the Pike County Consolidated High School senior class of 1969 finally received their diplomas. Over 40 former high school students were given their rightful experience of walking across the graduation stage. Years later and the school district’s superintendent decision was finally over turned. The superintendent refused to not give the students their diplomas for holding a peaceful demonstration for equitable and fair school district policies for all students. During this era black students were openly discriminated against and it was protected by law.
I believe that we must empower students across the Nation to have same boldness against injustice. Student empowerment changes the learning atmosphere in schools. It advances the level of thinking and engagement of students. Strong schools engage their students. There are creative ways that schools can empower students to engage in social justice advocacy.
- Create a student advocacy campaign (examples: School Recycling Program,5K Race, etc.)
- Student Cultural Arts Displays
- Student Empower Sessions (small peer led group motivational group talks)
Taking A Stand for Stronger Gun Laws (Gun Control)
School leaders across America should do the opposite of what the Superintendent of Pike County, Georgia did in 1969 and support their student taking a stand for stronger gun laws. School shootings must stop. One very important step in preventing this is better regulations around gun control. I understand the NPA’s stance for protecting citizens right to bear arm. I cannot stand in agreement with the current regulations around gun control. Children are being targeted and shoot down in schools by people who are able to get access to guns by current gun laws. This type of action has happened far too many times in America. I support students who are letting their voices be heard about gun control. Nothing will take the place of the tragic loss of their peers lives. However, their stance to see gun laws improved is admirable. It’s admirable just like the Pike County 40 who as youth stood up and spoke out against injustice. Today youth are taking a stand against mass school shooting and petitioning law makers laws that will save lives. Student advocacy changes things. Let’s support our students in making change that will positively impact generations to come.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.