More than 200 students at Christ the King College Prep high school staged a peaceful sit-in Monday morning Jan. 28, calling on their school’s administration to listen to a myriad of their concerns, including what they say is a high teacher turnover rate and a lack of African-American leadership, among administrators.
The morning sit-in started in the gym but later spilled outside in front of the school, 5088 W. Jackson Blvd., after the administration gave students an ultimatum to go back to class or go home, according to one junior who took part in the protest.
About 40 students and parents took the protest outside the building.
“All we needed was five minutes of the leaderships’ time to just come in (the gym) and see that your student body is serious, and they want change, and that they’re serious about their education,” said the junior, whose mother asked that her name not be published in fear of being punished.
“They still didn’t give us that yet.”
Students protesting outside the school said the administration told them it would meet with members of the student body on Friday Feb. 1. The Rev. Christopher J. Devron, president of the private Catholic Jesuit high school, was not available for comment after Monday’s protest.
The sit-in was organized through a group page on Facebook, a mass text message and word of mouth.
Cheryl Davis, the mother of two junior students at Christ the King, came to the school after another parent informed her about the sit-in. She said her two daughters went back to class after the administration made its “idle threats.”
“That’s why my children didn’t come out here, because they’re in fear of their grades and their grade point average and the test that they had,” Davis said. “They are in agreement with (students protesting)…but they feel like there is a better way of explaining what’s going on with the school and putting it across.”
According to the junior student, freshmen have come to her, saying that some teachers have called them the “stupidest freshman class they ever had.”
Another Christ the King freshman repeated the same charge.
“My class has a reputation of the baddest freshman class, and they always tell us ‘you’re the worst freshman class’ and… ‘You’re not going to make it to college,'” said the student, whose parents asked that her name not be included.
“The teachers in here don’t support us at all,” the freshman added.
And according to the junior, nearly all of the teachers she had as a freshman are no longer at the school.
“And that’s backfiring on me, because when I’m looking for colleges, I have no one to write my letter of recommendation, because these teachers just got here, and they pretty much have nothing to say,” the student said. “And that’s what the seniors are going through right now.”
A few students and parents also voiced concerns about the lack of African-American leadership at the school.
“We are a predominately African-American school in an African-American community,” the junior said.
The students, she added, would be “better understood” if more teachers and staff were African American.
Shawnda Mays was outside the school in support of her 11th grade daughter.
“As parents we need to get more involved and behind our students and really listen to their concerns,” she said, adding that going forward, there will be a larger parent presence at the school.
“That’s my task leaving here, to contact my fellow parents and get them here to the meeting on Friday or the parent organization meeting that we are having next Tuesday.”