Western High School is the oldest public all-girls high school remaining in the United States today. It is the third-oldest public high school in the state of Maryland, and proudly carries the label of being a National Blue Ribbon School. The school is located in the heart of Baltimore, a city where Black people make up roughly 63 percent of the population – A city known for its issues with inequality. The school is made up almost entirely of minorities: 91 percent of the school’s population. A whopping 68 percent of the students are considered “economically disadvantaged”.
Despite this, Western High has a 92 percent graduation rate – 9 percent more than the national average. The school has a list of notable alumni, including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. This is all to say, Western High is what most would consider a good school.
Oh, how I wish this were a tale of Black excellence.
Western High last made the news over three years ago, in late 2014, when the former principal was charged with stealing $61K from the school system. Most of the money came from a fund that was meant to pay for student activities but instead paid for Alisha Trusty’s Baltimore Gas and Electric bill. The Blue Ribbon school has now made the news once again, unfortunately, not due to the students’ academics.
Baltimore comedian Khairy Creek tweeted Wednesday morning that Western High was without heat, and the post has since gone viral:
“ATTENTION: Western High School has been without heat for over 2 weeks. Temperatures in Baltimore city were below 20 degrees this morning and they still required kids to attend classes. Some kids even brought blankets to class. This is completely unacceptable.”
Edie House-Foster, city schools spokeswoman, said Western High does have heat, but due to the building’s old age, the heating structures were compromised. City officials also say they’ve since resolved the heating issues. All seems to be well and fine at Western High, but that isn’t really the point.
Western High School allowed children to be subjected to unsatisfactory heating for two weeks. The city of Baltimore required that the students continue attending classes. The United States, as a nation, routinely and consistently neglects Black youth. This is only more evidence of that. When was the last story of a predominately white school going without basic needs for several weeks like this? When has a predominately white community gone without basic needs for several years like Flint, Michigan?
It is wonderful that Western High School has restored heat to their students. However, those students should never have been forced to go without heat in the first place. This neglecting of Black youth, and Black people in general, is unthinkable. We need to do better.