Lockdown drills, racial inequality, sexual misconduct, in-school suspension…children experience these things in our schools every day to a staggering degree, but more often than not, we don’t hear directly from them how they feel about it.
This project started with a question: “How safe do you feel at school?” During the fall of 2019, through a partnership with a local high school, 11 students, ranging from grades 9 through 12, enrolled in a special class taught by a professional journalist from WFDD. At the beginning of the semester, the students were asked to answer that question and to look at federal, state and county data on school violence. The result was School, Interrupted, a four-part series that shows the different types of violence students everywhere face on a daily basis…from the point of view of the students.
Our Radio 101 students’ research uncovered chilling statistics, including: in a year, a gun was fired in or near a K-12 school over 100 times; Black students in the local school district were on average 2.8 grades behind their white counterparts; over 100 instances of sexual assault — excluding rape — were reported in North Carolina’s schools during the year before. Next, they spent a month collecting data from over 300 of their peers, interviewing administrators, teachers, researchers, lawyers, police officers and experts from across the country in order to produce their series.
On their own, the stories painted a grim picture of how safe our kids feel at school, but this is a conversation that had to go beyond the broadcast. The mission of Hive, since its inception 10 years ago, has always been to give kids a voice — to provide them the tools and the vehicle to share their singular experiences. So we convened a Town Hall for Teens on School Violence, where students from all over our listening area were invited to share their own stories and brainstorm creative and positive solutions. We also invited school administrators, parents and district officials. There was only one rule: this was a time for adults to sit back and listen to what the students had to say.
The feature stories coupled with the Town Hall for Teens together make School, Interrupted, a program that honors the hallmarks of public radio: creating a space for civil discourse, an opportunity to explore different perspectives, and a chance to challenge our own beliefs.