Students, NAACP sit down with Riverview school staff

- Jewelle Scott expected her senior year at Sarasota's Riverview High School to be like her previous years. 

"For the most part, the last three years have been great," she said. 

But this year is different.  While Jewelle said she's never had a bad experience at Riverview, she said the atmosphere on campus is tense. 

"We had a couple of school lockdowns and this promposal has just made it a bad year," she continued. 

That promposal showed a senior boy inviting a girl to prom with a racially insensitive message that read: "If I was black I'd be picking cotton, but I'm white and I'm picking you for prom."  It drew unwanted attention to Riverview and sent a shockwave throughout the school’s corridors. 

"A lot of people are tense and everybody has something to say about this and everybody wants their opinions to be heard," Jewelle said. 

Monday afternoon, students got their chance. They met with administrators and the NAACP to discuss race issues on campus.  More than a dozen students attended the meeting, and each had their own story of experiencing racial prejudice at some point. 

Trevor Harvey, the president of Sarasota's NAACP chapter, said they wanted assurances that racial matters wouldn't be swept under the rug. 

"We’ve got to make sure, going forward, that students don't just feel they can say whatever they want to say and get away with it," said Harvey. 

A new principal will take over Riverview in June. Harvey said she promised an open-door policy for students to address any concerns. 

"The faculty has to be held accountable as well. When students are bringing these issues to them, they need to feel like they are being heard and the issue is being addressed," he said. 

This closed forum was an opportunity for students to talk freely in a safe environment about topics that are important to them. District leaders say they will use the information shared during today's meeting to develop additional conversations on the topic of race relations and other matters to be rolled out in schools across the county. 

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