Student exposes apparent culture of racism at Rockford Public Schools, leaders respond

Kent County

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — A Rockford High School student put his district on notice about a culture of racism that is going unchecked, which is deeply affecting students of color.

Senior Brady Smith drafted a disturbing report that he emailed to hundreds of teachers and administrators. It highlights what he said is an ugly truth in the district.

“I’m not alone,” Smith said. “There are other people that know what it feels like.”

After expressing his concerns about the treatment of his Black and brown classmates, he asked ninth through 12th grade current and former students of color to share their school experiences.

“It was very eye-opening for me,” Smith said.

A 2014 Native American Rockford grad responded saying, “One staff member dressed up in a full native headdress and mocked my culture openly during class hours. I wanted to vomit.” 

A current African American student submitted, “Also just had to report a video of a kid saying the n word and saying ‘go pick cotton in the field like you were made to (n-word).”

Even some white students acknowledged there might be a problem.

“As a white male, growing up in Rockford, I was not held accountable for the way I perceived people who were different than me,” one student wrote. “There were minimal checks in place to call out harmful behavior by students, including myself.”

Smith posted a link to the 137-page Google document on his Instagram.

Incoming Interim Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Korie Wilson-Crawford acknowledged Smith’s report in a staff-wide email. Based on staff feedback, she said the report seems to be “more confusing than enlightening,” but the district will continue its efforts to be more inclusive.

When asked what changes will look like, Wilson-Crawford responded, “That should look like more inclusive classrooms and students feeling like they can say who they are and they can present how they are and that should look like interventions occurring when things go awry.”

News 8 asked Wilson-Crawford if Rockford Public Schools district had a race problem. She didn’t deny it, but said, “I think that our society has a problem with cultural awareness, and I do think that Rockford is not immune to that.”

Wilson-Crawford said her staff will be trained in cultural awareness and that ninth through 12th grade students will have the option to share their truths in an upcoming, school-sanctioned survey.

Meanwhile, Smith said he has no regrets about sending out his report and only hopes it will shift the school’s culture for future generations.

“I think that what I did is important, and I hope that this motivates them to take action,” Smith said.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Stories On WOODTV.com

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links