DHS Dems letter for Board of Education meeting

Speech written by Vy Nguyen. Slightly modified by Ms. Williams per the BOE meeting guidelines. Presented by Gill Noffert at the Feb 28 Board of Education meeting.

Vy Nguyen

Good evening.


I am here representing a student organization at Derby High School called the DHS Dems. We are truly troubled at the recent controversy over the Joy DeGruy video and the way specific members of the Derby Public Schools Board of Education handled a complaint brought before them.


As author Joy DeGruy explains in the video, using white privilege to “make right a situation that [is] wrong” is a way to turn something negative into something positive. No one should feel uncomfortable, targeted, or threatened by that.


I would like to hope that these BOE members would have been more concerned about the acts of racism occuring at DHS that this video was intended to rectify than about the video itself.


However, in some ways I am not surprised due to the political climate we are living in. Fear mongering has created a fertile environment for state legislatures to continually introduce and pass bills that place a leash on education and criminalize educational programs that encourage students to consider viewpoints different from their own.


Book bans have swept across the country as critical race theory, a legal theory taught at the college graduate-level, has morphed into a catch-all term to label any topic related to racism or, sometimes, even policies that support the civil rights of LGBTQ+ youth.


With these troubling events, it is apparent that many people in positions of power do not care about students. They only care about their own opinions and the small subset who mirror those beliefs.


Scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois once said that “either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy America.”


This still rings true today. Growth starts in places of cerebral discomfort that allow individuals to have a starting point to learn and see a topic from more angles. Not only is this valuable for challenging long-held beliefs, but it is necessary for social progress. It prods us to all think about why we have certain views and what they mean for our future.


Positive educational and social outcomes for all youth are possible only in a society—and the schools within it—that guarantees equality of opportunity to all people regardless of race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other dimensions. Central to this effort is allowing for discussions about topics such as privilege in our schools. These conversations are not meant to divide people, teach them to hate each other, or to make them feel shame about their race, community, or country. Rather, these conversations can provide a framework to understand how existing structures can cause disparities in opportunity and how we can be a force for change.


As author Ijeoma Oluo reminds us, “The concept of privilege violates everything we’ve been told about fairness and everything we’ve been told about the American Dream…We want to protect our vision of a world that is fair and kind and predictable. That reaction is natural, but it doesn’t make the harmful effects of unexamined privilege less real.”


I urge you all to consider this in the future. Thank you for your time.