Campus challenges hate speech


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In the light of recent incidents with racial overtones by Roseville High School students, principal David Byrd and assistant principals Anna Marie Clark and Stephanie Malia attended RHS’ Black Student Union meeting last Thursday to hear student input on the issue.

According to Byrd, the goal of the visit was to look for ways to improve campus culture and prevent future incidents. He has also invited BSU to next month’s faculty meeting to speak to teachers.

“It seemed like a logical place to start,” Byrd said. “Our goal is just to listen a little bit. Though, we’ve got a few ideas that we want to propose to our Black Student Union That would include: them putting together a presentation about, from their perspective, what Roseville High School is like, with respect to some of the cultural insensitivity and the cultural sensitivity that we have. Our hope is that we can convince them to take a month and maybe present to our faculty and our staff some of their thoughts and some of their ideas.”

Two weeks ago, a male student (Eye of the Tiger chose to withhold the minor’s name) posted a photo on Instagram that, according to Malia, promoted racism and hate speech. In response, administration held a conference with the student’s parents in order to discuss the incident.

According to the student, administration didn’t pursue additional consequences, other than informing his parents of his actions, because his incident occurred outside of school hours.

Seniors Barry Lewis and Eva Lewis created a petition to bring awareness to hate speech on campus, calling for student activities director Brent Mattix to ban the student from enrolling in the spring term of student government.

“This petition is trying to get a certain student kicked out of student government,” Barry Lewis said. “It’s because student government is supposed to create the culture at Roseville and every decision they make impacts Roseville High School students. And we don’t really want a student who blatantly makes racist comments about other students in charge of making the culture and impacting the decisions that are going to affect us in the long term.”

A week prior to the incident online, band students were allegedly harassed by other students with racial slurs after being moved closer to the Tiger Cage.

Sophomore band member Charles Henderson felt the slurs were eye-opening.

“A ball came out of nowhere, and it just hit me across my face while I’m playing so it really surprised me,” Henderson said. “So I stood up and I said, ‘Okay, whose ball is this? Who did this?’ And somebody said, ‘You better go get that, ‘N.’ And I had looked at the person and I was like, ‘Don’t say that. Don’t say that to me. That’s not okay.’”

Administration was informed of the situation the following Monday and asked the band students questions about the incident and offered an apology. Henderson said that administration was sincere in their apology, but he was disappointed that the incident that occurred in the first place.

“I was very disappointed on what happened,” Henderson said. “As Roseville High School students, we should be better. And even though if it was an accident or not, we should be careful about what we’re saying because we don’t know who could be offended.”

According to the Roseville High School 2016-17 student handbook, the Roseville Joint Unified High School District prohibits “the harassment of students of … race, color, national origin, ethnicity … or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local law, ordinance or regulation.” A student violating this policy can result in “discipline, up to and including suspension or expulsion, depending on the nature and seriousness of the violation.”

Oakmont High School experienced a few forms of racial hate crimes in the past two years targeted against their students, which was matched with a district-backed cultural sensitivity training session.

RJUHSD hosted a “Sustaining Cultures and Strengthening Communities” district-wide speaker series initially featured at OHS and eventually opened up to the district.


(ANDREW SMITH/ EYE OF THE TIGER) Principal David Byrd attended last Thursday’s Black Student Union meeting to field student perspectives about campus cultural sensitivity. He invited the union to speak at November’s faculty meeting.

According to RJUHSD superintendent Ron Severson, attendance for the series was very small and the district will be taking advantage of their third professional development day this school year in order to reach a “broader teacher audience.”

“We are using our third district professional development day to examine both equity and relationship issues [also known as] Emotional Quotient,” Severson said. “It will be EQ squared. The targets are to grow everyone’s cultural literacy, to examine implicit bias, and to develop a deeper understanding of mindset. On the relational side, we will be working on how to better build trust and understanding with our students and with each other.”

According to Severson, some schools within RJUHSD have specific programs to address issues revolving around bullying, hate speech, and insensitivity with different programs. The ultimate goal is to integrate an effective, far-reaching program at each school.

“Granite Bay has the ripple effect,” Severson said. “Woodcreek does a whole Culture Week.  Oakmont has [a] ‘Dude be nice’ week.  Most of our schools work with Point Break or Breaking down the Walls. We have been working with a consultant for three years now who has been training staff and students on issues around cultural understanding and literacy.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Eye of the Tiger removed the the name of the student from the original article for the purposes of student protection.