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Local view: Community, students united in a positive discussion

On Monday evening, students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members gathered to have a proactive discussion about improvements in Duluth public schools (“Duluth high schoolers gather to air grievances,” May 20).

The “Duluth Students Look to the Future of Safe Schools” community forum began with two videos: a recent lip-dub video from Denfeld High School and a documentary on diversity made by the hosting group Students for the Future. Both videos made an impact on the viewers, for they pointed out the unity that can be brought to a high school and the difficulties of being considered a minority in a primarily homogeneous group.

After the videos, student speakers from both schools presented to the group. They set the tone with thought-out comments on school climate and student voice. They spoke on student relations between the schools, student input in the district, and the new Safe Schools bullying legislation. Students from both high schools showed unity by speaking together and asserting that they worked for the same goal: the improvement of their schools and community.

After all the presentations, participants were split into nine small groups. These groups were mixed, with administrators, teachers, community members, parents and students from both high schools expressing their opinions. Walking through the room, one could hear reasoned conversations between groups of people who normally would not share views with each other; neither adults nor students dominated the talks.

When it came time to present, the ideas from the small groups included citywide events to bring the high schools together, an all-city student council or student-issues committees, and the need for access points and conversations between students and district administrators.

The community forum was a rare opportunity for students and community members to share their views in a school system that is hierarchical, with students on the bottom of the ladder. Students for the Future appreciated everyone’s attendance, including Superintendent Bill Gronseth, our principals, School Board members and teachers.

We plan to talk with district administrators to find ways for greater student voice. We felt our ideas and thoughts were listened to on Monday night and look forward to the future.

Kier Zimmerman is a junior at Duluth East High School and a member of the group Students for the Future.