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St. Louis Catholic alum start petition to address race and representation in school curriculum

Updated: Jun. 16, 2020 at 7:45 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - There are growing calls for action in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

We’ve seen demands for the removal of local confederate statues and now the conversation has turned towards education.

Alumni of St. Louis Catholic High School have called upon administration and the Catholic Diocese to update all of the district’s curriculum to be more inclusive and address racial history and bias in light of the anti-racism protests that are sweeping the nation.

“We shouldn’t have to wait until college, or learn about it in documentaries," said 09″ alum Natalie Ieyoub. "This needs to be a part of our curriculum.”

The petition received over 500 signatures in less than 7 hours. As of Tuesday, the petition had more than 800 signatures out of its 1,000 goal.

“I think for a lot of people at this moment, they’re learning about these things for the first time....systemic issues that black people in our community are dealing with every day and it shouldn’t be like that," said Ieyoub.

In the petition, there are calls for adding diverse voices and conversations about race to the Catholic Diocese curriculum in addition to recommended coursebooks for each common core subject.

The petition calls for the implementation of race awareness learning and anti-racism in the school including:

  • Release a public statement condemning the wrongful murder of George Floyd and all victims of police brutality.
  • Commit to effectively condemning EVERY racist act that happens in the classroom and on school property. White supremacy and racism, whether overt or covert, should not be tolerated at any level. 
  • Revise the school’s statement of philosophy—and the student handbook—to include principles of diversity, anti-racism, and equality.
  • Add articles, books, documentaries, and podcasts by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, & People of Color) authors centered on anti-racism and racial justice to the curricula of all social science and English classes at every grade level, in summer reading lists and academic year syllabi. These texts should be used to facilitate in-class conversations and lessons about race, privilege, allyship, and justice--and not just during Black history month.

The petition also lists the following recommendations for course work:

Science:

“Medical Bondage”: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology by Deirdre Cooper Owens

“Medical Apartheid”: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington

Literature

The Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler

The Street by Ann Petry

Passing by Nella Larsen

The Dutchman and The Slave: Two Plays by LeRoi Jones

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins

Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Sociology

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Blackballed: The Black Vote and U.S. Democracy by Darryl Pinckney

Memoir

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

The Last Holiday: A Memoir by Gil Scott-Heron

Articles and Essays

“The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance” by Kiese Laymon

The petition also calls for more opportunities for low-income students to attend St. Louis:

“The scholarship opportunities offered are insufficient. And we believe that students from all socioeconomic backgrounds should have access to this school and to Catholic education. The median income in Lake Charles is $40,910 and the SLC subsidized tuition rate is currently at $6,900. Even the subsidized tuition is unaffordable for most Lake Charles families—and we believe this needs to change. And right now, many of the scholarship applications can only be accessed by making phone calls or sending multiple emails. Our demand is threefold:”

  • Create more transparency regarding all tuition and scholarship information by ensuring it is all readily available on the school website. Include numbers of scholarship applicants. 
  • Eliminate processing fees from financial aid application forms, as well as the Pastor’s signature requirement for subsidized tuition rates. 
  • Revisit and lower the subsidized tuition rates, which are still unaffordable for many local families.

To see the petition visit: http://chng.it/R66qzqZV

Ieyoub says the time for action is now.

“We put a lot of thought into everything and I think the demands are totally reasonable and doable...We really wanted to make sure everything we were suggesting is in line with church teachings since it is a Catholic school."

Other alumni like 2009 alum Maria Harmon says she was introduced to systemic racism early on.

“For me, I entered high school at 13...and I just picked up on a lot of microaggressions and after a while, it gets annoying and in some cases emotionally draining, especially at times when I was the only black kid in the classroom," Harmon said.

For Harmon, that microaggression fueled her love for learning and ultimately played a key role in where she chose to pursue her degree.

“I went looking for where I wanted to go and it had to be an HBCU. For me, I knew I wanted to study political science but I knew a predominantly white institution wouldn’t be conducive to my own mental health and trying to learn at the same time.”

As alumni, both Ieyoub and Harmon say the petition is only the beginning. For them the future is education and they want that future to look a little clearer for the next generation.

“Our gratitude is what compels us to work to improve the system so that the next generation of students are able to make further strides toward a more just world.”

In response to the petition, administration at St. Louis Catholic High School released the following statement:

St. Louis Catholic High School greatly values its many alumni. Our alumni realize the important role of Catholic education in the lives of young people. St. Louis constantly evaluates policies, procedures, and language to ensure that we serve our students and those most in need with the level of respect and professionalism that our faith demands. We have an open admission policy and welcome recipients of the Louisiana Scholarship Program. Our goal is to help students to discover their identity as God’s children, made in His image and likeness. St. Louis Catholic High School condemns any form of social injustice, especially racism. St. Peter Claver, our diocesan patron, continues to serve as a hero to inspire us to be saints for today and tomorrow.

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