Centennial student addresses school board

Members of the community met to discuss and protest decisions made by CCSD on Feb.25 at a student-parent led rally in downtown Las Vegas.
At the heart of the rally were key speakers who sought to voice their opinions on how the school district has handled the current pandemic, and among them were Mayor Carolyn Goodman, former Olympian and CCSD alumni Charlene Johnson, Councilwoman Pamala Goynes-Brown and current Centennial student body president Caden McKnight.
“I’m here to speak on behalf of students who feel like their voices have not been heard by Clark County School District. I have seen first-hand the impact that CCSD pandemic policies have had on the student body, and they have not been easy on anyone,” McKnight said. “I think the students deserve so much more.”
The rally happened on the tails of an announcement by Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara informed families of CCSD that a hybrid education plan was to be implemented starting March 22. It was a shock to many, and happened seemingly out of nowhere, but many rejoiced at the knowledge.
“I believe [Jara’s announcement] is definitely a step in the right direction, and I look forward to more to come,” McKnight said.
McKnight emphasized the struggles that a virtual school year has placed upon students, both academically and emotionally. He spoke about failing classes, the inability to graduate and tragic deaths.
“These are students who once got straight As so easily and are now struggling to pass their classes. These are students that are worried they will never get a graduation with their friends that they have gone to school with for 13 years. These are students who have felt so isolated that they chose to take their own lives,” McKnight said.
A particularly tragic consequence of the last year has been the considerable increase in teen suicides. Mental health has been a major concern for many in the Clark County community, but many are feeling unsupported and scared of the detrimental effects on teenage minds.
“According to the official Clark County Coroner report, the total number of suicides of minors in the district in 2019 was 16. As of today, in the past six months alone, we have had 21,” McKnight said. “To the board of trustees who make these decisions, those are just numbers on a chart. To us, they mean so much more.”
McKnight delivered this speech outside of the Las Vegas Academy of the Performing Arts theater prior to a meeting of the Board of Trustees, and he gave the same speech in front of the board inside. Following his rallying of fellow students, McKnight received an onslaught of hate on Facebook from those who disagreed with his sentiments.
“I was told that I was privileged and immature by strangers online more than double my age. Despite what judgment others may pass on me, I still believe in every word I spoke. I shared statistics and personal stories, but even still, the current teen mental health crisis is still being denied,” McKnight said.
McKnight is unsure of the effect his words had on the Board of Trustees, but he hopes he was able to reach other influential members in the community. He proudly represented Centennial’s student body, and he spoke for his peers across the district.
“We are kids living through a global pandemic trying to pass our AP exams and watching our friends literally die. We have never felt so isolated, and we have never felt so alone,” McKnight said. “To anyone who is out there listening, when you make these decisions for us, maybe take us and our mental health into account.”