Teens describe bias, discrimination they face at school

Courtesy photoThe text of one student's story shared anonymously on the site.

A social media account created by a minority student at Andover High School is highlighting anonymous reports of discrimination, racism and bias carried out by students and staff in the halls of the school.

The Instagram account "Black at Andover High School" describes itself as a place for students and alumni to share their experiences. It has amassed 743 followers since it was created in early June.

Incidents described on the account range in severity. 

A July 7 post from a student who will be a senior in the fall says: “Every time we read a book with the n-word, the whole class would look at me and try to hide their laughs."

A post from a student who will be a junior reads: “I was on my way to math class and a random teacher came up to me and said ‘*random girl’s name* don’t forget our meeting.’ I didn’t know what she was talking about but proceeded to carry on my day. Only later realized she mixed me up with another black student at the school. She walked into my math class. Looked at me. Realized I wasn’t the person she thought I was but didn’t apologize."

Gabrielle Erawoc, 15, an Andover High student who created the account, said it was inspired by similar accounts created by minority students at private schools.

"We feel like we have done everything we can,” Gabrielle said. "So, we are making these Instagram pages because that’s how a lot of things are blowing up. We can get a lot of attention. We are making these pages to let people share their stories, not only safely, but anonymously.”

She also shares the posts on Twitter under the handle @blackatahs. 

Andover school officials could not be reached for comment about the Instagram posts on Sunday. 

A district-wide letter sent this week by principals of the high school and Andover's three middle schools however, acknowledged recent social media posts and pledged action to "dismantle bias and racism, and build an inclusive and respectful community."

"We are disheartened and concerned to read about our current and former students’ experiences of bias, racism and hate language in Andover Public Schools," the principals wrote. "We stand together with our school community to stand up and speak out against all acts of hate. To the students who have posted their personal experiences -- we hear you."

Gabrielle, who is African American, is entering her sophomore year at Andover High. She is from Atlanta and attends Andover High as part of the “A Better Chance” program, which places talented minority students in private and public schools with college preparatory programs around the country. The Andover High program is hosting seven girls.

Gabrielle said she sometimes feels “out of place” at Andover High because of her race, but she's enjoyed her experience overall.

She said she found out about these Instagram accounts through other students in the program.

"You get to connect with a lot of students through the program that go to boarding schools, private schools, so we just knew through them that they are making these pages and we thought, ‘Oh, we should make one,'” she said.

Gabrielle said one of the “main inspirations” is a similar Instagram account called “Black at Andover” created by students at Phillips Academy. That page had 4,425 followers as of July 1. Its administrator declined to comment for this story.

Gabrielle said she accepts anonymous submissions for the Andover High page through a Google form.

“People just go there. They don’t put their name. They just put their graduating year and they submit their stories there," she said.

She takes each submission and and turns it into a post.

Gabrielle said it’s best to allow students anonymity to avoid retaliation.

“There is that chance of being harassed and bullied,'' she said. "It would just cause more harm.''

“Everything just needs to be uncensored, and everybody just needs to feel like they have a voice," she said. "So, I post every single story that is submitted."

The Instagram page can be viewed at https://www.instagram.com/blackatandoverhigh.


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