Sun Prairie High School students hold walkout to discuss ongoing issues of racism

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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - About 150 students from Sun Prairie High School and other schools walked out of class Tuesday to discuss with school officials ongoing issues with racism in the school district.

This comes a day after a Sun Prairie High School student posted a picture of himself wearing black face at a student basketball game. The district says the student had painted his face black at the game.

Students from Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School and Prairie Phoenix Academy also joined the walkout, at the District Support Center Tuesday afternoon.

"We just felt like it wasn't equal, especially over the previous things that happened, so we just wanted to feel equal. And we thought if we did a protest slash walkout, then it would change something for us," said Kiarra Cook, a student who walked out.

According to a release from the school district, students and district leadership discussed:

  • The need to update policies to specifically include race.

  • The need to hire more teachers of color.

  • The need to review/revise the curriculum to be sure we are teaching about the richness and depth of black history past and present.

Some students told NBC15 they felt the district heard their concerns and hope the school district will start making changes.

"I'm hoping that we all get treated more equally instead of feeling that because we're a different race or we're a different color that it's not the same, we have to get treated differently," Cook said.

The district did not immediately respond to NBC15’s inquiry regarding repercussions the student who wore blackface could be facing.

Sun Prairie High School's Black Student Union and Minority Student Achievement Network released a statement on Wednesday regarding the walkout.

"After a snapchat picture became locally viral, the culture of a large portion of white students became clear," according to a release from the president of American Parent Network of Sun PrairieAfrican, Teran Peterson.

"We want to inspire change for future generations, to break down toxic racial divides that broadcast a sense of dehumanizing and inferior status, and to participate in building a better culture in our community. We want to acknowledge and thank the Sun Prairie School District for the support that has already been provided to us by actively listening to our voices, and giving us more opportunities to make the changes that are so desperately needed in our community."

The student groups requested in the release::

  • More teachers of color are employed.

  • Stricter punishments for discrimination and racist acts.

  • More comprehensive education around African Americans, beyond the time spent inslavery and civil rights.

Following the walkout on Tuesday, the district said that it “highlights the importance of having courageous conversations about race with our students, within our schools, and in collaboration with our community at large”

”We cannot hope to eliminate the racial disparities in our system unless we first discuss race and racism in a way that is honest and proactive. Everyone plays a vital role in increasing racial consciousness in our schools in order for us to achieve our vision. After listening to students, district leadership met to reflect and debrief on the information shared."

The district says superintendent Brad Saron, and assistant superintendents Stephanie Leonard-Witte and Janet Rosseter, will meet with students to continue to discuss racism in the school district.