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One Year After Richland School District's Student Voice Panel: What Changed?

Richland School District students reflected on the outcomes of the district's student voice panel in the last school year and the resulting changes.

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Hopeful in the possibility of schools to support and educate self-actualized students who are deeply involved in their communities. Strong believer in passing the mic to marginalized groups to share their own stories. Usually thinking about cats.

(Image Source: Scott Butner Photography)

November 26th of last year was a momentous day for students in the Richland School District. Students from the now Hanford Student Equity Club and Richland Student Equity Club came together and held a zoom student voice panel. Over a hundred students, Richland School District Staff, and community members attended and heard firsthand student calls for district action on lack of diverse student voice and anti-racism work. Panel members included Black, Indigenous, People of Color students, neurodivergent students, LGBTQIA+ students, upperclassmen, and underclassmen from both Richland and Hanford High School. A group of 9 students were panelists provided voice on COVID response, mental health, and equity, as well as answering audience Q&A. 

After a year of reflection, student panelists have conflicted feelings on how far the Richland School District has really come. 

Hanford Student Equity Club leader and student voice panelist Hannah Qian reflected, “I feel that after the panel, teachers have become more aware of the experiences of their marginalized students, and many of them are willing to listen and learn. In terms of progress, I don’t think district leaders have made much notable change. It is still difficult for oppressed voices to be heard on a larger scale... There are still tons of microaggressions and lack of knowledge about injustice.”

Arianna Cairceros, founder of the Richland Student Equity Club and panel member similarly said, “the student voice panel did put pressure on school adults to actually commit to diversity and inclusion.” Although Caiceros remarked on the specific efforts of history and language arts teachers, they stated, “I feel like equity’s hype had died down. It feels like we’re going back to how it was before last year.”

The Richland School District currently has a DEI committee with many of the student panelists on it. There have not been any actions taken by the group thus far. Conversely, both student groups at Richland and Hanford have created change at school. Richland has made a mental health room and bought more diverse books -- Hanford has held the first student Pride Parade and is currently planning a Poetry Slam and WA Student Equity Conference.