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Iowa City students protest downtown to end racism in schools

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ICCSD student protest

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Many minority students in the Iowa City Community School District say they've experienced some form of discrimination, disrespect or discouragement while at school.

"Racism and discrimination runs deep throughout our halls, throughout our teachers, throughout our peers," a leader of the West High Black Student Union said.

While current and former students say these issues are not new, they were highlighted last week when a video circulated on social media of a West student making threats and using a racial slur. This caused two days of protests inside West High and also at one junior high.

On Friday, students from each of the high schools walked out of class early and met downtown at the Pentacrest to unite and voice their concern.

"Conversations that needed to be had could finally be had, because we have not been taken seriously at our schools," the student leader said. The students did not want to share their names for fear of retaliation.

Students shared a variety of negative experiences at school. Some where microaggressions or insensitive jokes, and some were racial slurs from peers.

About 100 students marched through downtown Iowa City to raise awareness. They stayed peaceful and on the sidewalks. Their hope is that school staff will preach anti-racism, and actively stand with students.

"I feel like just by doing this right now, we're getting heard. Like, the most tiniest progress is still progress," another student said.

ICCSD declined to do an interview for this story, but did send KWWL this message that was sent to parents on Thursday:

"We empathize with our students’ frustration, fear, and anger.  We respect that students have a voice and we encourage them to use it. When a collective group, like our student body, takes interest in national and local issues to help make a difference, we support them and want to work with them to do so in a positive and meaningful manner."

Iowa City released its student discipline numbers for the 2020 - 21 school year last Tuesday. While Black students make up just 21.6% of the student body, they made up 47% of office referrals. That figure does contain some students counted twice.

Black students made up 70% of all suspensions in 2020. That number contains no duplicates. Black students were also overrepresented in discipline numbers last year.

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