Aliyah and Maya Lomax are Pennridge High School seniors and cousins who have taken on their district’s education system.
Founders of Pennridge’s Minority Inclusive Club (MIC), the pair started a petition to “demand an immediate pledge from the Pennridge School District to overhaul and institute a curriculum dedicated to anti-racist education” in the wake of nationwide protests for racial justice.
Aliyah and Maya started the club in their sophomore year, hoping to build a community for students of color. “We felt there was a lack of care for minorities, and we wanted to create a space for students of color to share their experiences,” Aliyah says.
Their club is discussion based, open to all, and focused on education. Maya notes, “We’re doing this to educate students and hope they educate others.” The MIC facilitates discussion among students of varying backgrounds by having in-depth conversations about current events or social issues.
Continuing their work from the Minority Inclusive Club, the cousins started their petition looking to gain community support for a shift in the curriculum in the Pennridge School District.
Aliyah said, “A lot of what we’re learning about [this summer] is systemic; it’s built into our system. If we can teach anti-racist behavior, we can build a better society; racism is a taught behavior, so we believe biases and prejudices can be changed with education.”
The petition, which has garnered over 2,500 signatures, reads, “[the Pennridge School District] has failed to teach me and the rest of my community about racism, intersectionality, and privilege in the United States; and particularly about how our community has benefited from or perpetuated these systems.”
For Aliyah and Maya, change in their education looks like a much more diversified teaching staff, citing that only one teacher of color is in Pennridge High School, the curriculum should include an increase of authors of color in assigned readings, and eventually, a class focused specifically on African American history.
They also demand “required diversity and implicit bias training each semester” for all authority figures and “holding students ... accountable” for discriminatory or offensive speech or actions.
The cousins plan to present their demands and petition to the Pennridge School Board on Aug. 24, using the signatures as a proof of the support within the community for change. Change “means something to us and to the community,” Aliyah says, “so we’re asking the board to do something.”
To garner support, Aliyah and Maya met with Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub to discuss their ideas for change, and have sent their petition to members of the school board.
Calling for “the release of a plan about how exactly the district intends to educate students about racism, and uplift and promote the work of diverse scholars, historians, and activists,” Aliyah and Maya join the ranks of thousands of students across the country looking for an overhaul of the accepted American curriculum.
As noted by Aliyah, having students and teachers of color, especially Black students and teachers of color, can shift the ideas of someone who may have learned biases or prejudices. Similarly, educating students on the history of oppression in the United States allows for a shift in the paradigm for willful ignorance in education.
Aine Playdon, a Herald intern, is a student at Temple University.