Their words matter

Jones hosts seminars to better teachers’ BIPOC response

*name has been replaced due to privacy concerns

To help reconcile the overall experience of BIPOC students at Jones, the administration organized the FOJ funded anti-racist training. 

Jones teachers have to do a series of virtual workshops and seminars to increase their knowledge and empathy in hopes to decrease the tension between the students and staff, according to administration.

 Two out of the six sessions have been completed. In those sessions teachers learned anti-racist terminology, the difference between diversity, inclusion, and equity, and the history of whiteness in America. The workshops take place during Eagle Days as a part of the teachers’ professional development, and attendance is mandatory. 

“The voices of students really pushed things to a point where it couldn’t be dismissed or ignored,” said teacher Dunkin Dobrik *. “Jones used to be a predominantly minority school, and as we transitioned to the new building, as the consent decree of CPS that asked for even racial representation in schools was struck down, the demographics started to change. As the demographics started to change, students of color started complaining more and more about things a fellow student said to them, things that teachers had done intentionally or unintentionally.”

Tensions in the school have been at a breaking point due to the steady stream of complaints and stories of microaggressions.

“A group of about 75 percent of the Jones faculty wrote a letter to the administration in February of last year, asking for antiracist professional development. This summer after everything, after the LSC meetings, we had students publicly, powerfully sharing stories of how they felt,” said Dobrik. “Administration agreed and Friends of Jones agreed to help fund this anti-racist program through Davis Squared Consulting and it’s a six-part series.”

Contrary to public belief, The Illinois Report Card said that 39 percent of Jones students are white in the 2019-2020 school year. Despite the school not being a Primarily White Instituion (PWI), the Jones staff does not reflect the student population as 51 percent of the staff is white.

 “A good place to start is by the adults in the community, like the teachers and administration, educating ourselves about the different experiences of the different groups that our student population is made up of,” said  Science Department Chair Heidi Park. 

“If you’re not spending that time doing the work to learn about what other groups have experienced historically and currently, it’s hard to even be aware that we might need to respond in specific ways and do specific things.”

There is an overwhelming amount of support for the program, but some students are upset that it had to go on for this long before something was done about the issue. 

“The scandals with our peers, it was a lot. I feel like because of everything that happened last year, in regards to George Floyd and the BLM movement, that’s when they started doing the training programs for being anti-racist,” said Laura Pratt ‘22. “It’s good, it’s a step of progress, but I don’t like that the sequence of events had to unfold in that way, instead of Jones doing it out of their own good.”

Some of the work is being done behind the scenes, out of the public eye, but that doesn’t allow students to be aware of the changes happening.

“The adults at Jones know that there is pain.  A lot of the adults are asking the question, ‘What can be done?’ I would say that even when students aren’t seeing those conversations happening, they are,” said English teacher Tricia Rodriguez. “I think they’re doing a good job of saying, up front, that the anti-racist portion hasn’t really been approached yet. It’s more work that needs to be done before you can have that discussion. They’re well intentioned and well informed, whether or not that work is being reflected in the classroom”.