What steps is Solon taking to become anti-racist?

At a Black Lives Matter protest in Solon, multiple people spoke out about the numerous Black people who have been killed by the police without justice. Photo Courtesy ofMatthew Headen

At a Black Lives Matter protest in Solon, multiple people spoke out about the numerous Black people who have been killed by the police without justice. Photo Courtesy ofMatthew Headen

Avantika Pai, Contributing Writer

Over the summer, America experienced hundreds of protests in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of two police officers. The protests, led by the Black Lives Matter movement, called for change on a national level for the problem of police brutality. People took the time to educate themselves, and others, on their racist ideologies. 

In the Solon City School District, staff members and students met over the summer to form groups in order to demand change from the school and educate others on racism. 

One of the groups is Solon Voices for Change, a grassroots organization that has committees devoted to spreading awareness of topics such as race, sexual assault, mental health and disabilities. Aris Lockridge, a senior at Solon High School (SHS), leads this group along with her classmate, Amy Iheme. 

According to Lockridge, she got involved over the summer when Shobitha Sanjeevan and Gabrielle Sudilovsky, two alumni from Solon, offered her the chance to talk about and correct some of the issues that she and others have seen at Solon. She said from the start of the group, there was little representation for students of color and specifically Black students. 

“We knew that going forward we really needed to implement some Black leadership and to make sure all voices were heard in this group,” Lockridge said. 

When asked about her personal experience with Solon Voices for Change, Lockridge said the club has made her more confident in addressing the systemic racism that Solon has had a part in. She also said that the stories of other minority students have helped her grow as a person. 

Ideas of racism and government policy are further incorporated into conversations throughout classrooms. According to Mary Clare Lane, a government teacher at SHS, she does not avoid such discussions. 

“I have not been one to really shy away from discussing difficult issues,” Lane said. “Discussing policy and history is just a part of my everyday experience at Solon.”

There were many chances for the staff to converse with each other on the topic of racism all summer long. Administrators held meetings over the summer to watch videos, read articles, and have discussions. 

Lane, along with Kelly Fishman and Beth Mackens, helps facilitate the Anti-Racism Committee that was started during the summertime as a result of the staff meetings held by the administrators. According to Lane, the discussions throughout the meetings needed to lead to action. 

“Discussion is a wonderful place to start but we felt that there was a need to start taking some discernible action steps to really address issues of racism at Solon High School.

“Being comfortable having the discussions about history and race in this country [lends] itself towards trying to get things moving here,” Lane said. 

Furthermore, SHS has implemented the PTA Diversity Lesson into the curriculum, which will continue six times throughout the school year. During the first of these lessons, student participation varied throughout classes. The presentation was filled with videos and quizzes to inform students about racism, discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping.

The SHS guidance counseling office can also be a place for open communication on such subjects, according to Kathleen Kinney, an SHS guidance counselor. Kinney has said she believes these conversations that are occurring are necessary. 

“I am very thankful–even though some of the negative backlash has been painful to see and experience–I am very thankful [this widespread awareness] is happening,” Kinney said. “I think these conversations need to be out in the air…I think that recognition will help bring about the equality that everybody hasn’t experienced in our society.” 

Kinney is one of the few Black faculty members, and she has said that she feels her interaction with students pushes for an anti-racist atmosphere. 

“I think my very presence encourages anti-racism,” Kinney said. “I try to be respectful and fair and open with all of my students, and I think that for some people, that’s a new thing, to be interacting in a close way with somebody who’s not of the same race as them.” 

According to Kinney, she hopes the whole process of societal awareness was automatic, but she recognizes that the process is challenging. 

“This is a difficult process,” Kinney said. “It is difficult for people who’ve never had to consider somebody else’s viewpoint. It has challenged a lot of people’s assumptions about the world and how they see things.

“I think as a whole we benefit, because we realize that there are so many different perspectives,” Kinney said. “There are so many ways that some people have been hurt by the current system and some people have benefited by the current system, and we all need to be aware of those things.”