Alpharetta High School students want more racial tolerance in the classroom

Samir Duggasani, a rising senior at Alpharetta High School, marched in recent protests in downtown Atlanta and Decatur. He is pictured with sign written in Urdu and Hindu that includes the phrase, "Long  live the revolution." Photo courtesy of Samir Duggasani.
Samir Duggasani, a rising senior at Alpharetta High School, marched in recent protests in downtown Atlanta and Decatur. He is pictured with sign written in Urdu and Hindu that includes the phrase, "Long live the revolution." Photo courtesy of Samir Duggasani.

North Fulton students calling for change in wake of national unrest have the attention of their principal and Fulton County Schools. Two rising seniors at Alpharetta High School wrote a formal letter to principal Shannon Kersey’s administration that asks for an environment of racial tolerance and an improved curriculum with in-depth studies on black history.

The students are scheduled to meet with Kersey on Monday.

The letter was signed and supported by several students and alumni. The authors said it was written in response to police-related deaths of black men and women across the U.S.

The students want textbooks on black American experiences by black authors included in their studies and recommended a list of titles and lesson plans. They asked for more discussions on race in the classroom; a zero-tolerance policy when racial discrimination by a student or faculty member arises; and mandatory training for teachers that ends biases against students of color when they are disciplined.

Student Samir Duggasani, who is Indian American and Asian American and co-authored the letter, acknowledged significant diversity at Alpharetta High School but said he sees subtle acts of micro-aggression towards minority students.

“I knew that if we did not raise our voice and share our perspectives, the administration would not be aware of much needed changes,” Duggasani said. “I didn’t want to go directly to the superintendent or the Georgia board of education because I wanted to focus on more local problems in Alpharetta.”

He added, “We are fortunate to have an administration that is responsive to students and thankful for Dr. Kersey inviting us to discuss the letter.”

Duggasani asked a fellow student who is African American to co-author the letter with him. Her parent asked that she not be named in this article. The student said she witnessed and experienced racism in her classroom and gym class.

According to Fulton County Schools, the student population at Alpharetta High School is 41% white, 24% Asian, 18% black, 13% Hispanic and 4% multi-racial.

“We expect all schools to look at this,” said chief spokesperson for Fulton County Schools Brian Noyes regarding the letter. “We want to make sure every student feels comfortable. And this conversation is bringing more things to light. This is a new opportunity.”

Fulton County Schools board members commented on racial disadvantages experienced by people and students of color during a meeting on June 9.

“We want to teach students to accept, honor and amplify the voices of their black and brown classmates,” Linda Bryant said. The board member represents School District 4, which includes College Park, Fairburn and parts of southwest Atlanta.

Linda McCain, whose District 5 includes Alpharetta and other parts of north Fulton, addressed the death of George Floyd. He died in Minnesota on Memorial Day in police custody.

“That was terrible,” McCain said. “But that is not something that we have effect over now. What we can affect is making sure that every student in Fulton County Schools has a wonderful education. We had a lot of plans in place and they’ve been derailed. We need to get  back to that and that in-person learning as soon as soon as possible ... and focus on that 100%.”

Kersey recently posted a video on the Alpharetta High School website that addressed social unrest and protests taking place across the country but Duggasani and his co-author said they want a deeper commitment from their principal.

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