Iowa City students frustrated over cancellation of social justice course

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Iowa City students feel, despite a long fight to add a social justice class at West and City High Schools, it's never going to happen.

"We've been chasing this for over a year," said Iowa City West senior Lujayn Hamad. "Many of the SAHD members are seniors. We're graduating in three months and asking for this since November of 2016 when we were juniors."

Lajayn Hamad goes to Iowa City West and is a member of Students Against Hate and Discrimination. Students pushed to start an "ethnic studies class" after they saw a lot of bullying and political unrest. She even quit her job and made accommodations just to be a part of it.

"We were devastated because we've been demanding and begging and pleading and they said yes and got our hopes up," said Hamad.

The school district agreed to make it an elective, but haven't been able to settle on a contract with a University of Iowa professor.

"I wouldn't say it was a particular lack of funding. We've budgeted a specific amount that we've been public about for the past couple of months. Just recently, we received word that that wasn't enough," said Kingsley Botchway, the district's director of equity and engagement.

The district says not enough students signed up by Tuesday's deadline. Botchway says the district requires at least 24 students for a new class, but Hamad says other classes at City High have as few as five students. Hamad said the district has made exceptions in the past.

Other students say they wanted to take a class involving conversations about race, identity, and gender equality.

"As someone who spends a lot of time with traditional curricula, learning about certain cultures and not others, about different ones that are underrepresented, just seems like such a great program to have," said Iowa City High sophomore Mira Bohannankunar.

Botchway says a meeting was supposed to take place at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday to see if they can reach a contract with the professor. The class was supposed to start tomorrow. We haven't heard back on whether they came to an agreement.