SFUSD looks to recruit more black students at Lowell

San Francisco’s public school leaders are looking to recruit more black students at Lowell High School in response to recent concerns of discrimination on campus.

Plans are in the works to hire an advocate and recruitment officer who would help draw more black students to the school, which has seen a decrease in the number of black students in recent decades, said Chris Lee, a fund development officer for the San Francisco Unified School District. The new hire would also serve as a point person for current black students there.

“The main goal is to make sure that [students] have an advocate that they know and that they trust,” Lee said.

The effort comes after Lowell students, including members of the school’s Black Student Union, walked out of class Feb. 23 to protest a poster made by a student that depicted images of prominent black people. The poster, which was hung amid the school’s Black History Month celebrations but later taken down by administrators, included photographs of black rappers, an image of President Barack Obama wearing studded earrings and the caption “#gang.”

Dozens students and parents deemed the images offensive and lamented the school’s slow response to remove the poster.

“I was very offended,” said Cierra Dunn, a Lowell High junior and member of the school’s Black Student Union. “I felt really disrespected. It didn’t represent us in a very positive way.”

Students spoke out about the incident at a Board of Education meeting following the walkout. They listed a recruitment officer and advocate that would serve Lowell’s black student population as one of their demands.

“Having a student advocate for them was on that list,” Lee said.

The number of black students enrolled at Lowell High School has dwindled in recent years. Black students made up 4.7 percent of all students enrolled at Lowell in the 1994-95 school year, according to data from the California Department of Education. Fast forward 10 years and the number has shrunk to 2.9 percent in 2004-05.

Last school year, data shows black students comprised 2.2 percent of the student population.

Districtwide, there have been similar efforts to help recruit, retain and promote success for black students in The City’s high schools.

Last year, Mayor Ed Lee accepted President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, a nationwide effort to address gaps in access to higher education faced by black boys and men, as well as promoting success among all youths.

The school district also hired its first special assistant for African-American achievement and leadership in January 2015, whose main role is to increase the success of black students in the district, as previously reported by the San Francisco Examiner.

The cost of hiring a student advocate and recruitment officer remains unknown, district officials said. It’s also possible the advocate serving Lowell could work with at least one other additional high school in the district.

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