As suburban districts diversify, black students navigate a mix of prejudice and good intentions

December 15, 2018

Some people may think they don’t see color, but the numbers don’t support it. Federal civil rights data shows that minorities in suburban districts, particularly black students, face serious obstacles in getting an education.

Leah Stewart, a 12th-grader at Greece Olympia High School, is part of an uncomfortable sort of club at school. She calls it “the five smart black girls.” Earning admission was an exhausting ordeal, and yet she doesn’t enjoy being a member very much at all.

It began in eighth grade, when Stewart first had to push back against a counselor who wouldn’t enroll her in an advanced course. She’s had the same experience more recently in the high school, even with a track record of academic success.

“I tried to take AP physics, and my counselor pretty much laughed at me,” Stewart said. “He was pretty much just like, ‘Oh you have a lot on your plate.’ He wouldn’t sign off on it for like a really long time.”