Dear Adjatay

education, photography

Dear Adjatay,

You are not “just another Black boy who has been kicked out of school.” You are talented, empathetic, perceptive and thoughtful. I’m sorry I did not get the chance to tell you that one more time before you walked out the doors of our school forever.

Remember the day you made me cry in the middle of class? I wasn’t actually crying because you were throwing trash at me. I was crying because with each flick of wadded up paper, used tissue and broken pencil shred, I saw you throwing away your potential. I saw you giving up on your brilliant self.

Last year, when I first met you, you were reading on a kindergarten reading level. Alberto, Sophia, Cristofer, you and I met every morning to sound out basic phonetic combinations and learn about Spot and Dot. This year, each time you raise your hand to read aloud a 6th grade-level text in class, I beam with pride. You are phenomenal, and you have the potential inside of you to do amazing things.

But we failed you, Adjatay. We couldn’t provide the emotionally safe space you needed to function at your best at school. I am sorry.

“I am sorry.”

Those were the last three words I heard you say as the glass door clicked closed behind you.

We couldn’t let you stay, not after the incident in the cafeteria. Still, I didn’t want to let you go.

Do you know that I fought for you to stay at our school? I stood up to defend you in a room of nine adults. I reminded them of your perceptiveness, your kindness, your talent. I begged them to let you stay.

If you remember nothing else from our two years together, please hear this; you are not a bad kid. You are not a problem. You are not a burden. You are a side effect of a broken system. Your genetic lottery landed you in two dangerous categories in modern American education. You are a Black male, and according to your IEP, you are emotionally disturbed.

Paperwork and official classifications aside, you are missed. You are cared for deeply. Your life matters. You still have at least one adult who hasn’t given up on you yet.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson

2 thoughts on “Dear Adjatay

  1. This was actually the first letter I wrote to any of my students, because the issue is so poignant. Black boys in our education system today are disciplined more severely and expelled from schools at a disproportionate rate to all other demographics of children. This issue is one that is crucial for educators and reformers as we look to improve a system that is currently under-serving many of our students.


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