"Speak Back"

BY DIARAYE DIALLO [SOPHOMORE, DSST COLE]

My Name is Diaraye (Jarai) Diallo (Jalloh) and I am a sophomore at DSST: Cole High School.

My mother came here from Conakry, Guinea in West Africa in 2000. Along with my older brother and sister, she came here and gave up everything she knew so she could provide better opportunities for her children. My single mother of four sacrificed her life and own well-being to ensure that her kids are receiving the best education possible. That is in fact not happening. What she changed her whole life for, has been rigged. As a young black Muslim woman and a child of immigrants my needs are being detrimentally ignored.

DSST has failed in supporting their students of underrepresented groups. After 5 years of being established, in a school that is 83% minority and 71% free and reduced and lunch, this is the first time Cole has received a woman of color teacher. Our struggles that we face are not transparent to the heads of DSST. They placed a school in the east side of Denver and are incapable of sustaining the school in the way they have sustained other schools in wealthier neighborhoods. DSST wants to continue building schools in Montebello when they can't even handle the issues students of color face at Cole such as gang violence.

DSST: Byers gets an adequate facility even though they are a younger school than we are. They continuously neglect our cries for help and pass on this façade that they are saving the poor brown and black kids from the hood. We sacrifice our school spirit and own teams because DSST cannot, for some reason, provide us with adequate facilities that they have for schools across other campuses. In addition to that, we have been placed in an old building. If you tell the heads of DSST about the inequity we face by being placed in a building that lacks air conditioning and many other things that many of the other campuses have, they will press the “historic beauty”.

We are forced with the majority of our junior class being cut in half because of retention, dropout rates, and students moving to schools that do not perform as well as we do. They hold students back that have behavioral issues because they are concerned about not meeting the 100% college acceptance rate. There is no account for how many students are actually capable of handling college once they leave an institution like DSST. Students are withheld from advocating money to the rent of the building at Cole. Our clubs have to work twice has hard to make sure that there are the funds to actually do things that will get them into college. Our own CEO, Bill Kurtz, could only donate $60 to our debate team that needs close to 5,000 dollars.

We lack in electives and honoring anything else that is not test based or STEM based. We are only provided with one language to learn that 60% percent of our students already know how to speak. Stapleton and Byer’s robotics team were clearly provided with more resources at our robotics competition. We are deprived of our own needs with labs and many of our teachers are forced to make cuts into their own paychecks to provide us with resources. For instance, a school like DSST: GVR has incubators, working speakers, lab equipment, and consistent janitors. There is even a lack of general cleanliness. We had a norovirus outbreak as result of the lack of upkeep within our school. We run out of lunch because we share the building with elementary scholars, lunch that many students depend on. 

Our education is fixated on solely test taking and making sure that we do good on these test that we don’t actually learn anything concrete. Our school has been placed as a business because we only get the funds necessary if we do good on test. The advantages other campuses have over us would be the area the school is in. We are in an area where parents are not as concerned if their kids get to do clubs but rather how their kids are going to eat. We have a dress code that is extremely sexist to needs girls within our school have who have different body types. We are forced to conform to things that aren’t going to be “too distracting. ”  

We have systems like refocus (after-school detention) which are systematically racist. If you see who is in refocus it is only the black and brown kids who are being punished for things the non students of color are clearly getting away We get punished for things such as not having the right clothes on which students may or may not be able to afford, or being less than a minute late when our white students come later than that and are not being punished for it. As a result, there is no change happening for our students because we are seen as incompetent by our heads. Instead of supporting us, they are stunting our growth as individuals and as students based on our backgrounds and are failing.