When teacher Delvonte Arnold came to school after a weekend of racist violence, he expected students to have questions. But to his shock, Charlottesville didn’t come up.
“No one asked me any type of questions about it,” said Arnold, who teaches world history at Arlington High School, a far east side school that could close as part of an Indianapolis Public Schools reconfiguration proposal.
But Arnold thought it was important for his students to talk about the white supremacist rally and the car that plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters — a day that ended in tragedy with three dead and dozens more injured.
So Thursday afternoon, in the 20 minutes before the bell rang at the end of the day, Arnold decided to start the conversion. He and two other teachers brought together about 15 students, most of them African American, to talk about the rally.
“They are growing up black in America,” said Arnold, who is black. “You have to know what racism looks like, and we have to figure out a way to do things that will make a change in our communities.”
Teaun Paige, a sophomore in the world history class, said that she learned about Charlottesville from her mother last weekend. Teachers have occasionally brought it up this week, she said, but students haven’t spoken much about it.
But even though she hasn’t spent much time talking about the violence with her friends, she said “it feels like a big deal.”
“I mean, if it happened here it would be way more of a big deal,” Paige added, “but it’s still a big deal.”
One reason Arnold likes to discuss issues in the news is because it gives students a chance to pause the reading and writing they are usually focused on and think about the world.
Because not all of them are paying attention to national news, he needs to start by giving students background information. Thursday, the class started by watching a short clip from “Vice News Tonight.”
“They are engaged, but first they have to find out about these things,” he said. “I have to stimulate the conversation.”
The class also talked about racism and terrorism last week, Paige said.
“It turned into something really serious,” she said. “We started actually putting our feelings out there about racism.”