Normandy H.S. students learn about segregation

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - You might think the days of people being denied the use of public facilities based on their color are over.

But they are not.

When you come into Normandy High School these days, one of the first things you notice are labels all over the building designating things like restrooms, staircases and water fountains as either 'green only' or 'yellow only.'

Students in the ninth and tenth grades are assigned green ribbons, giving them special privileges, while those wearing yellow can sit only in certain seats, use certain staircases, certain restrooms and certain water fountains.

The idea is to teach students what life was like in the segregated south.

'They don`t think that it was real,' said Amy Blackwell, a ninth grade teacher who brought the idea to Normandy from her previous job in another district.

'I hope they develop some sort of respect and then a responsibility of knowing where they come from,' she said.

Normandy's interim superintendent, Dr. Charles Pearson, has a special appreciation for this exercise because he grew up in segregated Arkansas.

'(Things are) radically different from those days,' Pearson said, adding 'there are still vestiges of it that which parents want their children to understand.'

The students alternate daily between green and yellow, so no one has it too bad for too long.

But they also know when the last bell rings, they get to take off their ribbons and go where they please; a luxury not afforded their ancestors.

'I can go anywhere that I want but if I was living back then, 'I couldn`t and I would hate that because I don`t like when people tell me no,' said ninth grader Makayla Dorris.

The district hopes because of the events in Ferguson, and because next month is the 50th anniversary of the marches in Selma, this exercise also teaches the students that America's racial struggles are connected and continuous.

'It`s awful because of the type of life they lived back then,' said ninth grader Jamall Williams.

'It is better now than it was back in the day,' he said.