Montclair Board of Education’s first ever student representative, Montclair High School senior Genesis Whitlock, made a statement at Wednesday’s BOE meeting, calling for accountability and stating that “progress has not been implemented based on how I’ve been treated.”
Whitlock, who was recently honored by Essex County for her leadership and service, said she has been consistently attending BOE meetings for two years on her own, before becoming the first BOE student representative.
Whitlock, in her first report to the Board in September 2020, discussed concerns brought to her by students, including racism, both covert and overt.
Whitlock said Wednesday that she was being used as a coverup to deflect some deeper rooted issues in the district, issues that have only been further exacerbated since the school has been gone virtual.
“I’m a survivor of trauma, and as open as I have been throughout the past few years about my story, it’s clear that my vulnerability has been weaponized against me,” Whitlock said. “The NIBPA [National Independent Black Parents Association] is the only group that actively has shown up for me because I should not be showing up on my own consistently. They showed up for all of me and not just the parts of me that are awarded for my dedication to this work. Going up for black students and realigning with the four values of equity is not about funding programs or giving people shiny plaques, it’s about taking accountability, reflecting on what role each person plays in either uplifting or harming black students.”
Whitlock spoke of the progress that needs to happen in the district.
“I’ve committed the past few years to seeing progress. And I know that progress is capable of happening, but I have to be honest that it has not been implemented this year based on how I’ve been treated. If it’s not happening for me, I can only imagine what happens for students who don’t have that platform.”
Whitlock said she looks forward to helping the next student representatives become acclimated and had this advice:
“Challenge everything you think you know. A district that truly values equity should be able to handle some of these real questions that I asked and some of these real experiences that I have to share with you, even when it gets uncomfortable,” she said. “But what’s really important to me is a community response to my testimony.”