WASHINGTON — Turpin High School student, Claire Mengel spoke in front of a US Congressional Subcommittee. Mengel helped organize Wednesday's walkout in protest of the Forest Hills school board’s decision to cancel Diversity Day. After school on Wednesday, Mengel participated in the student run Diversity Day, then they drove to Washington D.C. to continue the conversation.
The purpose of the Congressional Subcommittee’s hearing was to examine political attacks on free speech and classroom censorship. Mengel was among three students to speak.
Mengel discussed the board's decision to cancel Turpin High School's diversity day event.
“Our event is not about (Critical Race Theory). Our event is about diversity- learning about it and celebrating it,” Mengel said in their testimony. “The school board brought politics into our schools when they attacked our event. Their actions have harmed our education, our mental health, and our community."
Turpin student, Claire Mengel is speaking to the US House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties now. @WCPO pic.twitter.com/mF9nXtwgOS— Taylor Nimmo (@tnimms) May 19, 2022
The movement to censor classroom discussion continues to gain traction across the country.
Over the past year, 17 states have passed legislation or enacted executive orders prohibiting the teaching of certain topics related to race.
“Most critically, students of color are being told by the highest authority in their district that their stories don't deserve to take up school time, school grounds, or school resources," Mengel said.
Parents in the Forest Hills School District spoke at Wednesday night’s board meeting to express their concerns.
"Diverse people and diverse thinking drive better results. It drives empathy for one another and a common understanding. It drives creativity and thinking by seeing lenses and different perspectives."
Proponents of these laws say they're meant to promote parental rights and transparency.
Mengel shared the impact it can have on teachers.
"Teachers are scared. I have had teachers whisper to me that they wish they could take a sticker that says, 'Protect Diversity,' but they fear repercussions.”
Mengel also discussed mental health, stating Forest Hills School District is in the middle of a mental health crisis.
"Seven students have committed suicide since I started middle school,” Mengel said. “While administrators are doing everything, they can to just keep us all alive, this anti-CRT rhetoric by the school board is causing immeasurable stress on our students and staff."
Mengel hopes their words will spark change in the district and across the country.
“I urge you to protect students' opportunity to learn about diversity, and I urge you to listen to student voices.”