Ali Massoud, a 2011 graduate of Hoover High School, says he was disappointed at a video depicting white students who attend Hoover schools using the N-word and anti-Semitic slurs. But he wasn’t surprised.
“I think a lot of students of color who have been through the Hoover High School system have seen small aggressions on display, and so the fact that this was caught on camera shows the rest of the world that those things are not just in our minds” Massoud says. “They are real and they are happening.”
Massoud and others want to know what school officials plan to do about it. Recently, Massoud started a petition demanding Hoover City Schools take meaningful action to address racism within the system. He says there are valuable historical lessons to learn from Birmingham, the epicenter of the civil rights movement.
And he says Hoover can use a serious culture change despite the city’s diverse makeup.
“A lot of people want to pretend like the fact that we have a diverse population here means that racism can’t exist” Massoud says. “But sometimes when those demographic shifts are happening and we do see more diversity, that’s exactly when racism flares up.”
Hoover schools have increased the number of black teachers over the years, but they make up less than 10 percent of faculty. According to federal records, a quarter of Hoover students are black. Terry Lamar, director of equity and educational initiatives for Hoover schools, hopes to bridge that diversity gap. He’s speaking with principals in the district to find ways to bring in more teachers of color. One approach is to tap historically black colleges and universities.
“We partnered with some of the college and universities so that we can try to retain and recruit more African-American teachers” Lamar says.
Hoover parents Meloney Ashford says that’s great, but recruiting more black teachers won’t necessarily change a student’s racist views. Ashford is black and her son is a Hoover high school athlete. She was furious after watching the video and immediately voiced her concerns to school officials.
“My thing to our principal and the superintendent is, I don’t think that kids that speak in that manner are even good enough to sit in the same classroom let alone be in the same school with my son” says Ashford.
Ashford believes the kids in the video should suffer repercussions; expulsion, suspension — anything, she says. But administrators at Hoover schools were unable to discipline those students because the incident didn’t occur on school grounds. However, they held an assembly at Spain Park High School, which included conversations about race among students, teachers and counselors. Ashford wonders why that dialogue didn’t take place at Hoover High as well.
“Until we all face the fact that these things have happened and then we work together to better educate our kids on cultural differences, then there is not going to be any change” Ashford says. “There’s not.”
A Hoover schools committee comprised of parents and students is tasked with addressing diversity issues. But Lamar says students should be at the center of a solution.