Oak Park schools have been in session for several weeks now, and the parents in our village have a lot of questions for our kids:
How was school today? Did you learn anything? Who’d you hang out with?
Unfortunately, some of our fellow parents also must inquire: Were you harassed today? Were you searched or detained?
There is a pattern occurring in our high school, and the parents expressing concern are those who happen to be raising young black men.
We are writing this open letter because this is not how we want to raise our children. We want to make OPRF a stronger institution for all our kids, and we want to ensure that both staff and students adhere to the letter and spirit of the code of conduct.
As adults who love the young people in this village, we are both heartbroken and outraged. It is ironic that our local high school is the feature of a nationally-aired documentary, America to Me, not because we have created a post-racial utopia, but because we are a racially diverse community. Filming occurred in 2015, yet today still, some of our students face toxic stress and trauma. This is not right.
We want to feel pride in our diversity, but we can be proud only if we treat every single member of our community with respect, only if we recognize the mistakes we are making, only if we call them out and fix them.
We care deeply about our community, which is why:
We require transparency. As parents, we would like to explicitly be educated on the policy for detaining and searching students at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Who is being searched and detained? Who violates the policy without repercussion?
We require a moratorium on searches until clear written policy, process and protocol is established for the search of all students.
We require equity. We expect the District 200 administration to do whatever it takes to stop plaguing African-American students with a scrutiny that assumes misbehavior or criminal activity so that our black and brown students can maintain their focus on their education, extracurriculars and friendships as peers do, without additional anxiety or trauma.
We write out of desperation, but also out of hope. We ask OPRF administrators and our elected officials for answers, and a better path for our children. We ask other parents if this represents the Oak Park you love.
This cannot stand. Oak Park deserves better. Our children deserve better.
Kisa and Christopher Marx