Class of 2020 graduate questions administration’s lack of acknowledgement on Black Lives Matter, staff diversity; Principal Hood apologizes for response, commits to change

Christina Luckett, Editor-in-Chief

At Madison’s drive-thru senior celebration on June 3, Keisha Young (’20) asked Principal Greg Hood to comment on a sign she had written on her car window. Young later posted a video of her interaction with Hood on Twitter, which led Hood to apologize for his response in a June 7 email to Madison students, families and staff.

The video, recorded by someone in the passenger seat of Young’s car, shows Young requesting that Hood comment on her sign, which read, “Admin + Educators, your silence is loud + clear to your black students” and “In my 12 years I’ve had: 52 classes, 1 semester w/ a black teacher. Who will advocate for us?” to which Hood replies, “I think everyone has the right to their own opinion.”

Young’s first car sign. (Courtesy of Keisha Young)
Young’s second car sign. (Courtesy of Keisha Young)

“I wish I could say I was surprised that Madison would again choose to not listen to their black students,” Young said in one of the Tweets from her June 3 thread. “I woke up on the morning of my graduation to my school inviting the police into my graduation at a time where all I see are videos of monsters in the same uniform as them, treating people that look like me and OUR classmates like they have no worth in this world.”

The police that Young referenced seeing at graduation were officers from the Vienna Police Department.

“I’m just supposed to be okay with the officers waving me on into the world like they aren’t the ones upholding the systems in place to tear black people down?” Young said. “I’m not okay with it.” 

Young’s question for Hood and other educators comes at the same time as worldwide Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations in response to the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. His murder has prompted many people to speak out about the systemic racism and injustices that Black people continue to face today. 

Hood apologized for the “hurt and anger [his response] caused” in his June 7 email. He noted that he did not have his glasses at the celebration and was not fully aware of everything written on the sign until he saw the video and photographs of Young’s car on social media two days later. 

“I wish I had taken the time to read it thoroughly,” Hood said. “I did not know fully what she was asking me to comment on, otherwise my response would have been a lot different. A lot of people were thinking that I responded also to the Black Lives Matter movement in a way that it was a matter of opinion, which obviously is not a matter of opinion. So in my eyes, it was very much my mindset was in one place, the student’s mindset was in another, and I wish we had had the time at that particular moment to exchange where each person’s mindset was.”

Hood also referenced new “opportunities for our students, staff, and community members to come together” in the email. One of those opportunities is through participation in virtual Student Listening Groups, which aim to improve understanding of students’ experiences at Madison through dialogue with their peers and with Madison teachers, all of whom have completed cultural responsiveness training over the past two years. The first three Student Listening Group sessions will take place on Wednesday, June 17, but opportunities for students to participate in these Listening Groups will likely continue into the summer, the 2020-21 school year and beyond, according to Hood. 

“We could’ve been doing more all along,” Hood said. “I welcome future conversations where we can sit down and truly take the time to listen and seek understanding. There are stories and experiences that have opened my eyes to what’s really, truly happening behind the scenes at Madison that we haven’t talked about enough, that we haven’t addressed enough. We need to hear [students’] experiences, we need to hear their point of view, as we move forward through this process to make real change.” 

Young did not feel the need to elaborate on her thoughts regarding the situation.

“I don’t feel like I need to explain myself any further about my graduation,” Young said. “If people still don’t understand why what Mr. Hood said to me was wrong, that’s on them and they should educate themselves.”

 

More information about the Student Listening Groups, including the sign-up form, can be found here.