Wednesday’s four-hour school board meeting was bracketed by wisdom from two very different speakers. The balance of the meeting (sorry, folks) was pretty much blah, blah, blah. The full meeting is here.
Anne Loy was the second public forum speaker. A teacher and principal for 30 years, Loy has been retired for 20 years. I remember her from West Hills Elementary. She stood before the school board with a well-organized presentation.
LoRen Seagrave was the final speaker – at the very end of the meeting, after all the discussion and voting. He stood with a soft voice and a somewhat disjointed presentation. And it hit me. These two were saying the same thing.
Loy began by asking, “What makes a school safe?” She said the presence of police officers is not making kids feel safe. Kids value how teachers and staff respect them. Noting that education is “way under-funded,” she said the help is appreciated, but the officers should be trained in mediation and de-escalation.
“I’m asking for a change in how we treat children in our schools. We need to understand these kids, be loving and more kind.”
Seagrave started with his credentials – to get the board’s attention. He is a senior at Austin-East, a member of the Top Ten academically with a 4.0 gpa, and has won several national acting honors.
He was in class when Anthony Thompson Jr. was shot and killed by police officers on April 12. And he’s having trouble getting his mind around why Knox County Schools has singled out A-E for mandatory clear backpacks and daily metal detection upon entering the school.
He noted that Thompson did not bring a gun into school until near the end of the school day. He didn’t bring the gun through the front door, but through a propped-open side door.
Seagrave said it starts his day wrong to have an officer run a wand over his body. “I’m walking around the halls of your school like a zombie, because I’m already dead. I’m viewed as a thug.”
He said the school board’s failure to act puts at risk an entire generation. “If you don’t do something, you will kill a whole generation of young people. Not just their bodies, but their dreams and hopes for a better life.”
Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.