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Forum focuses on school climate

Cape, Sussex Tech and Seaford students share experiences
November 30, 2017

Sussex County students shed light on what it's like to be a public high school student during a forum Nov. 14.

“I feel as if we're all equal at Seaford,” said Monderly Simeon, one of nine students who spoke about school climate at the forum sponsored by the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice.

Representing Sussex Tech, Kaysiah Tatem said the school has cliques, and it can be difficult to cross racial lines. “We should all try to come together more,” she said.

Cliques are also a reality at Cape High, said senior Taylor Morgan. This year, she said, she has noticed more student interaction in common areas such as the cafeteria. When asked what changed, Taylor said, there are now smaller tables mixed in with traditional, long lunch tables. “There's been more mingling,” she said.

Students attending the forum are part of Pathways to Success – a school-based program that focuses on tutoring girls in math, reading and English as well as teaching them study habits for success in college. They all shared a philisophical approach to accepting other people's opinions.

“I'm open to other people's views,” said Taylor. “It can't be a tunnel vision way.”

Speaking specifically about LGBTQ students, Seaford's Madison Wingate described a situation in school that reflects society.

“Certain people don't accept. Others don't care. It's half and half. It's really not as big in our school,” she said.

Sussex Tech's Dejah Jackson Powell said she has seen students torment a gay boy.

“The climate is terrible,” she said. “There are people who are so mean. They'll trip him and curse at him.”

Dejah said Sussex Tech students have discussed controversial issues in the past, but they discontinued when the conversation became heated.

“We stopped because people would take it to heart,” she said. “They would throw hissy fits and throw things.”

Neither Cape High's Taylor nor Tamia Bonville commented on the LGBTQ climate, but Tamia said students practice Socratic seminars to discuss issues, a program that promotes listening and creative thinking.

“If you respond you have to do it politely,” she said. “I heard someone say throwing stuff, and we don't do that.”

Fay Blake, executive director of Sussex County Pathways to Success, said learning to accept all points of view is an important part of the program.

“Kids are learning how to agree to disagree,” she said. “And I think that's what we've lost.”