While it’s great to see that there are many black students breaking the barriers to education, such as the young men of Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy, it’s saddening to remember that there are others still fighting that uphill battle.

The senior class at Detroit’s Frederick Douglass Academy is tired of letting the system tell them that they aren’t worth the investment, so they have taken control of their future in another way: fifty seniors walked out of school on March 29 to protest what they call an inadequate education, and were suspended as a result.

What’s shocking is that conditions at the school have been so thoroughly ignored by the city that parents — not students — organized the walkout.

The problems at Douglass, which is the only all-boys public school in the state of Michigan, range from a lack of textbooks to a lack of teacher involvement. Parents cite one teacher who has been absent for 68 days this year and entire classes forced to hang around in the library or gym because there are no teachers for their classes at all. The founding principal returned from a three-month sick leave and was reassigned upon his return, while the rest of the administration has also been replaced many times. The students have largely fallen behind and feel unprepared for college-level work.

Tevin Hill, a senior at Douglass Academy, told the Detroit Free Press:

We’ve been wronged and disrespected and lied to and cheated … they didn’t listen to us when we complained to the administration. They didn’t listen to the parents when they complained to the administration, so I guess this is the only way to get things solved.” 

Detroit Public Schools, the body that governs the school district, has not commented on the protest or provided a plan of action, making the state of affairs truly shameful. Someone needs to be held accountable for the futures of young black men who want to learn but are being given nowhere near the tools needed to compete.

Do you think that the walkout was the best way to solve the problem? What is the best course of action for these students and parents moving forward?

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