More than 300 students at New York City’s Beacon High School protested the school’s admissions policies on Monday (December 2), The New York Times reported. Though it is part of a public school system where nearly 70 percent of students are Black and Latinx, Beacon’s student body is about half White. To the students, this is not right.
“I continue to recognize the privilege I had of escaping the system that many of my friends could not,” said Naia Timmons, a junior from Harlem, who identifies as Black and White. Timmons was one of many who shouted “End Jim Crow” and “Education is a right, not just for the rich and White” during the action.
Sadie Lee, a sophomore who is counted among Beacon’s 9 percent Asian-American population, told The Times about microaggressions at the school, such as being asked if she speaks Chinese. “Racism hides itself behind our progressive facade,” Lee said during Monday’s protest. “The fight does not end when we walk back into that building,” she added.
Unlike the specialized Stuyvesant High School, which had its own controversy earlier this year regarding its lack of diversity, Beacon doesn’t require a test to get accepted. Instead, middle schoolers must write an admissions essay, assemble a portfolio of their work and present high standardized test scores and grades. According to The Times, this makes Beacon one of the city’s most selective schools, where only 360 ninth graders were admitted from more than 5,800 applications last year.
“Our schools are stronger when they reflect the diversity of our city, and we’re taking a look at our admissions processes,” said Katie O’Hanlon, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education.
For junior Carmen Lopez Villamil, the students are shining a light on Beacon for very specific reasons. “Beacon is really important because if students within Beacon are saying that the system is not working, this means that even the ones who are benefiting are not having it, that this is not working for anyone,” she said. To her classmates, Villamil reportedly has said, “You have privilege. It’s not your fault, it’s the system’s fault. But we have to work together to change that system.”