Middle school students tackle social justice issues

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Students in seventh and eighth grade at Edmunds Middle School in Burlington just wrapped a project studying youth activists around the country.

The students were asked to come up with a social justice issue they identified in their communities or globally.

It's part of a partnership with professors at the University of Vermont.
They're taking innovative practices and testing them out, allowing students more of a voice in the curriculum.

"I love that this shines the light on what an amazing age group this can be, and what a critical time it is to make sure that young people have an opportunity when they're developing critical sensibilities to actually take action on things they are passionate about and feel heard," said UVM professor, Jessica Demink-Carthew.

As part of the project, students made petitions, surveyed their classmates and reached out to local senators and representatives.

Some issues were more broad, including how feminine hygiene products are taxed while similar necessary items are not. Others focused on where they lived and how safe young women feel walking around Burlington. Students also tackled issues like the dress code in their school, in hopes to spark change.

Seventh graders Lulu Barrbrand and Elena Dragon-Krajac focused their project on why girls aren't allowed to wear certain clothing in schools.

"We're sort of just hoping that more of the staff can sort of understand where we're coming from like why we think its wrong that the dress code is as strict as it is," said Dragon-Krajac.

Eighth graders Kai Donnelly and Bill Hassan looked at the ban on hoods and hats in school. They did an experiment trying to figure out if teachers would first ask a white student, or a student of color to remove their hood or hat.

"With implicit bias, which is so deep in your brain, it's hard to create change in that. Whereas in just removing the hood rule, we can make it fair for everyone," said Donnelly.