By Carmen Edwards
The Prince William County School System (PWCS) is the third most diverse school system in Virginia, but it offers no classes dedicated to race relations in the high schools.
County school data shows there isn’t an overwhelming majority when it comes to a student’s race in the high schools. Prince William County Schools are 21 percent Blacks; 32 percent Latino; and 33 percent white.
As the nation grapples with how to end racial strife, Prince William County schools may have found a way to engage students and make them consider the issues of race relations.
“If we were more open about discussing race issues in high school, we would be less likely to have the political confrontations that we’re having in society today,” said Catherine Hailey, a creative writing teacher at Woodbridge Senior High School.
Jeff Girvan, supervisor of History and Social Science for PWCS, said one program called the AP Capstone Course at Osbourn Park High School allows students to choose to research on race relations. The course will be offered next year at Woodbridge Senior and Patriot high schools.
The Cambridge Program, an international curriculum offers students a choice to research Black History, Girvan said. However, it’s only available at Brentsville District and Potomac high schools.
“The Prince William County social studies curriculum lays the factual groundwork…to discern and discuss the factual information so that they can understand an issue from multiple perspectives,” he said.
When asked about their thoughts on the amount of conversation about race relations, students gave varying answers. Many of the non-minority students seemed to find that there was little discussion about race in the school system, while majority students seem to find the opposite.
Lea Taylor, 16, a white high school sophomore at Hylton High School said, “We talk about national race issues in English and World History. We sometimes compare past events regarding race to things that are happening now.”
Other students have a different view.
Camille Edwards, 16, a black sophomore who also attends Hylton High said, “When I bring up race, none of the students are interested and the teachers seem uncomfortable.”
Renee Sardelli, 15, a white high school sophomore at Hylton High School states, “We’ve really discussed the trouble in Baltimore and everything for the past couple of months in English. It’s been really interesting getting to hear other people’s point of view on the topic.”
Lindsay Gonzalez, 15, a black sophomore at Woodbridge Senior High School said, “Race is not a big issue discussed in my classes.”
Betssy Lopez, 16, a Latina sophomore at Woodbridge Senior High School, reported that her classes portrayed racism as a thing of the past. “Whenever we talk about racism it’s only about slavery. It seemed like after Martin Luther King Jr, all [racial] issues disappeared.”