Black Parkland Students Say They Feel Excluded From Growing Gun Control Movement

Tyah Roberts
On Wednesday, Black students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School held a press conference to address the increased police presence at their school — but there's a good chance you didn't hear about it.
Nadege Green of Florida news station WLRN was one of the few journalists who covered the event, which speaks to an issue Black MSD students say needs to be addressed: Their voices are being stifled in the growing movement for gun control.
"We feel like people within the movement have definitely addressed racial disparity but haven't adequately taken action to counteract that racial disparity," Tyah Roberts, a 17-year-old junior, told Refinery29 on Friday.
The Never Again movement, launched after the February shooting at the school, and its leaders have been afforded generous amounts of media attention and support from celebrities and politicians alike. It has not been lost on Tyah and her fellow students of color that this is vastly different from how movements like Black Lives Matter have been perceived. "We're not trying to form any rift in the movement, we're not trying to form a separate group. We are proudly representing Never Again," she said. "We're just trying to ensure our voices do not get lost in the movement, as we feel we have before this press conference."
And while David Hogg and other prominent leaders of the movement have called out the media's bias in not giving Black activists equal coverage for a movement they have been leading, Tyah told Refinery29 she has personally never been invited to a meeting by the group. "I'm not saying they're excluding us on purpose. I'm asking them really, turn to your neighbour and ask 'Do you have a story to share? We're having a meeting on this date. I would love to hear it,'" she said. "They've been saying but they haven't been doing."
The issue of more police officers at their school is of particular concern; while it may in fact make some of their classmates feel safer, it has made students of colour uneasy. (The school has roughly 3,000 students, 11% of which are students of colour.)
"The thing about these police officers that are being put into our schools is they don't take any special diversity training courses that would better equip them to deal with children and children of colur specifically," Tyah said.
Her concern is not unwarranted, according NAACP Legal Defense Fund policy counsel Nicole Dooley. "Police presence has not been shown to make schools safer, but it can lead to the over-criminalisation of students – particularly students of colour – and worsen race-based disparities in how typical student behaviours are addressed," Dooley told Refinery29. "And despite the risks faced by students in having increased police presence at school, there are no national standards for training for school resource officers.”
Cameron Kasky, one of students at the forefront of the movement, says he and other leaders recognise they have more work to do when it comes to representation. "We as a group are trying to move forward and get everyone involved, we consider ourselves a movement that represents every story," he told Refinery29 Friday. "We understand our privilege." He added that he is also not for the increased police presence at school, and although he can't put himself in the shoes of his classmates of colour, he thinks it's a "very bad idea."
Cameron said that he and others in the movement are actively working to include more students and that they will soon be holding meetings that any student at the school can attend. "I'm excited to work with everyone. It's an opportunity for me to meet a lot of new people at Douglas," Cameron said. "Much like us, bullets don't discriminate. It's important we focus on reaching out to everybody."
Tyah said she hopes to get more students of colour and their families involved in the movement, as many of them do not yet feel included. "This NeverAgain movement very personally affects me but I have been following Black Lives Matter since Trayvon Martin and I just want to make sure those two things intersect, so that these Black parents and Black students feel like they're a part of this movement and push for change, too."
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