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The secret stops here: Oak Ridge schools add Oak Ridge 85 to curriculum

The new courses in Oak Ridge will teach middle and high school students about desegregation and Black history in East Tennessee both in class and online.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — In November, WBIR 10News helped share the story of the Oak Ridge 85, the first Black students to integrate schools in the southeast in 1955. 

For 65 years, their stories were largely unknown, but the secret in Scarboro stops here. Oak Ridge schools are in the process of adding the 85's story to their curriculum.

Officials said students and educators for generations to come will learn about their history-making steps through the doors of Oak Ridge High School and Robertsville Junior High.

“This is a part of our history in our school’s history that is so important, but it has also been put in the shadows,” said Dr. Kirk Renegar, Robertsville Middle School Principal.

THE 85'S STORY: The Secret in Scarboro: The Oak Ridge 85

Unlike the Little Rock 9 or Ruby Bridges, the Oak Ridge 85 were left out of school textbooks. Contrary to the Clinton 12, many in Tennessee have likely never heard of the 85 until now.

“It's a secret. I've been working in this district for a long time, and I didn't know about it until very recently, within the last couple of years and that's a shame,” said Michael Carvella, Elementary Curriculum & Technology Integration Coach.

"The Secret in Scarboro" is out and playing inside classrooms across the school district in Oak Ridge.

"Teachers are showing this now. It gives you goosebumps, quite frankly," Renegar said. “It's made a huge difference for our community and our school system of bringing the story of these heroes to the forefront.”

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It’s a small piece of a bigger project set to launch at the end of the school year.

“I've been asked to create a course that will teach about the desegregation movement in Oak Ridge schools,” Carvella said.

For now, the new course in Oak Ridge will teach middle and high school students about desegregation and Black history in East Tennessee both in class and online, giving future students a chance to learn as historic wounds heal and legacy lives. 

"The next challenge is actually petitioning the state school board to get this part of the social studies standards, which is the social studies standards are going to be under review in 2022, I believe," Carvella said.

    

More Black history in East Tennessee in our YouTube playlist: