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Editorial: Anti-Black school environment requires cultural reset, stronger disciplinary action

The+Standards+Editorial+Board+addresses+the+schools+Anti-Black+environment+following+an+assembly+held+by+the+High+School+administration+March+26.+This+editorial+was+originally+published+in+the+April+2024+issue+of+The+Standard.+
Sophia Bateman
The Standard’s Editorial Board addresses the school’s Anti-Black environment following an assembly held by the High School administration March 26. This editorial was originally published in the April 2024 issue of The Standard.

Racism has become a stark fixture within the culture of the High School, a particularly shocking and painful reality as an international school with 70 countries represented in the student body. Just one week after the Global Festival, an event intended to celebrate the diversity of ASL families, a school-wide email was sent by Head of School Matthew Horvat to address the need for behavioral reform. It has become clear that our celebrations are gilded – surface-level actions that veil an unfortunate prevalence of discrimination within the community. 

Interim Director of Student Life Royce Wallace sent an email March 24 informing students of an assembly March 26. The assembly specifically discussed the consequences of racism in response to recent instances of anti-Black racism and was followed by a 30-minute reflection activity during students’ Period 2 class. 

An upsetting environment of hate speech and discrimination has emerged over the past year, with the assembly confirming the severity of such behavior on campus. Many students have fallen victim to bigotry and, as a result, reported discriminatory instances to faculty. In light of these testimonies, identity-based harassment poses a serious threat to the education and well-being of students.

Diversity is only a strength when it is valued. We cannot pride ourselves on our diverse community if we consistently repress, minimize and disrespect students whose identities do not align with the majority; we cannot revel in the school’s diversity if demoralizing racist behaviors persist. 

Pressures on minorities to prioritize avoiding confrontation and conflict when prejudice arises results in the loss of our potential diversity. We cannot preach that our differences make us strong when conformity culture regularly creates alienation within the school walls. 

Our school community’s prevailing culture of dismissing or trivializing discriminatory incidents and the disciplinary action that follows not only perpetuates the message that such behavior is tolerable but also undermines the existence of a safe and inclusive environment for all. 

While we acknowledge many students may come from culturally diverse backgrounds where concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion are not as prevalent, it remains crucial to recognize that ignorance does not justify discriminatory behavior. 

Therefore, the school must cultivate an environment that unequivocally demonstrates their “zero tolerance” for derogatory conduct, where intent is clearly harmful. When the school uses the blanket term of “zero tolerance” without truly abiding by this policy, it gives students a false sense of safety and justice.

Our school community’s prevailing culture of dismissing or trivializing discriminatory incidents and the disciplinary action that follows not only perpetuates the message that such behavior is tolerable but also undermines the existence of a safe and inclusive environment for all.

— Editorial Board

Change cannot be made without establishing respect between students. Though respect is one of the school’s core values, the idea that our classmates are deserving of equal treatment and kindness is not present in many students’ minds. We must respect the wide range of cultures and experiences with the same respect we have for ourselves. Everyone deserves to go to school without the fear of being targeted for their identity. A failure to recognize each other as equal human beings results in a failure to end discrimination at the school. 

It serves us as individuals and the wider community no benefit if we all remain close-minded and unwilling to learn about the wide array of identities that lie within our school. Should the environment we cultivate remain as such, we openly and knowingly reject the opportunity to continue forward as a community on a path truly rooted in the diversity we so strongly seek to pride ourselves on.

The remarks from the administration at the assembly must be fully taken into account by the student community. This is a time to reflect on our past actions and think about how we can change our behaviors for the future. The issue not only stems from those who use discriminatory language but also those who act as bystanders when witnessing these occurrences.

Therefore, it is important we overcome hesitance around collaborating with faculty and staff to address discriminatory incidents. By advocating for an inclusive environment, we must likewise encourage a culture where students feel safe to report incidents of discrimination without fear of reprisal. There are likely numerous unreported incidents of racism due to the fear of coming forward and seeing insufficient consequences.

While we acknowledge that we cannot know everything that goes on behind the scenes between the administration and perpetrators of identity-based discrimination, we want to see more effective disciplinary action in response to incidents of anti-Blackness. 

We must undergo a cultural shift across the student body. We ask that the administration respond to the racism experienced by Black students at the school with impactful consequences while the High School learns how to respect and utilize the strength of our diversity.

This editorial was originally published in the April 2024 issue of The Standard. 

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About the Contributor
Sophia Bateman
Sophia Bateman, Lead Features Editor
Sophia Bateman (’25) is the Lead Features Editor for The Standard. She joined the newspaper as a staff writer in Grade 9 because she admired collaboration among the staff and wanted a platform to express her voice. Outside of journalism, Bateman leads the Student Ambassador program and enjoys computer science.

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