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Terry Parker High School students want African-American studies course to be full year

by: Michael Yoshida, Action News Jax Updated:

Action News Jax is now hearing from the high school students behind a sit-in at Terry Parker High School.

We first told you about that sit-in Monday night.

Students want to change how African-American History is taught in Duval County Public Schools. On Tuesday, students and their parents met with administrators.

The sit-in organizer said she and other classmates decided as a group to protest because they feel African-American History is a topic that deserves a full year of class time, something they believe will benefit all of their classmates.

Right now, the course is only offered as a semester-long or half-year course.

Tenth-grader Angelina Roque said they protested to “make them hear us, make them see us, make them listen to us.”

Roque helped organize the sit-in that she participated in, along with about 10 other students.

“They risked being in trouble over a cause that we all truly think more people should be concerned about,” Roque said.

Monday night at the district’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti talked about the protest.

“The students are not being disciplined for raising the issue at Terry Parker,” Vitti said.

Vitti also said, “Historically, Terry Parker and other high schools in Duval County has offered the course, but as a half credit, not as a full credit ... we will, and are certainly willing to offer it as a full-year course starting in the fall.”

Action News Jax reached out to neighboring school districts and found out that in Clay County, African-American History is offered as a half-credit, semester-long elective. That’s the same as in Duval. In St. Johns. County, Action News Jax was told they offer a different course, African-American Literature, which is a year-long elective course.

In a statement sent to Action News Jax Tuesday, Dr. Vitti added the following:

“I respect that students demonstrated self-advocacy ‎and used their voice to signal concerns about their education. If there is student demand for a full-credit and year-long African-American ‎History course, then we should and will provide it to students. We will work through the process of developing and offering that course. Students who participated in the sit-in will not face disciplinary action.”

Roque said, “Being able to have a full course of African American history … that will honestly make a big difference. It will help the cultural gap.”

The process to figure out how to offer African-American History as a full-year course that is available to all students includes working with the state and making sure state standards are met as well as staffing needs and costs.

But the first step is for students to put their request in writing, something they tell Action News Jax they're working to do.