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Several Student Leaders In Boston Resign, Citing Disrespect And 'Adultism'

The sign for the Boston Public Schools headquarters in Nubian Square. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The sign for the Boston Public Schools headquarters in Nubian Square. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Several student leaders inside the Boston Public Schools have resigned their positions, in protest of what they called the disrespect, manipulation and “adultism” of district leaders and staff.

Between six and a dozen high school students resigned from the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC), a body that aims to give students a voice in district decision-making through 49 student representatives.

Among them is 17-year-old Khymani James, a senior at Boston Latin Academy, who had served as the non-voting student member of the Boston School Committee since last fall.

Throughout his tenure, James has been outspoken about standardized testing and exam-school admissions, as well as national politics. He gave up his BSAC membership and his seat on the school committee Thursday night in a letter of resignation.

James expressed frustration with what he called the “blatant disrespect” of adults employed by the school district, and called for “a complete overhaul of leadership.” He also explained the move on Twitter:

In a statement, Xavier Andrews, a Boston Public Schools spokesperson, said the district “deeply value[s] the voice of our students,” and will continue to work to “honor and amplify their voices in our decision making."

During a group interview Friday, James and other resigning students said this step was a long time coming.

Charlene Adames-Pimentel, also a senior at Boston Latin Academy, said BSAC’s adult facilitators frequently made students “feel dumb” for asking questions during their weekly meetings, or watered down their opinions in summaries for district leadership.

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James called out some school committee members for looking at their phones while students addressed them during periods of public comment. Others in the group alleged that one adult BSAC staffer crossed professional boundaries as she pried into their personal lives.

Naesoj Ware, a junior at the John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, said she and several other resigning members of BSAC came to feel that they were there to make district leadership "look good ... but not really to discuss the needs and priorities of students."

“We resigned from BSAC because it wasn’t what we signed up for,” James added. “We're supposed to be the checks and balances of the system … to let the superintendent know when she’s doing something wrong.”

“But in our BSAC space, we’re not allowed to have a progressive agenda and to execute it,” he added.

District officials did not comment on the students' more specific allegations. The BPS website describes BSAC as the "primary vehicle for student voice and youth engagement across the Boston Public Schools," and it has historically played "a key role in advising the School Committee on policy."

James and others in the group are set to graduate this spring, but he and the others resigning students said they will continue working on behalf of BPS students, albeit now on a grassroots level.

Related:

Max Larkin Twitter Reporter, Edify
Max Larkin is a multimedia reporter for Edify, WBUR's education vertical.

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