EYE OF THE TIGER’S VIEW: Address cultural insensitivity with bottom-up initiative

Cultural sensitivity efforts need to target students



Roseville High School administration is taking steps to increase campus cultural sensitivity. This comes on the heels of similar efforts launched by the district last year. The need for further work at RHS is a telltale sign that the initial effort failed.

The workshops emerged last year after a racist prank between Oakmont High School students and a family the year prior. The work the school is embarking on here comes after an instance of alleged verbal racial slurs at the Homecoming football game and a racist social media post – RHS students were responsible for both incidents.

Two known instances of racism, both of which were relatively public, makes us wonder how much discrimination goes undetected. Given this, it’s in every student’s best interest that the cultural sensitivity efforts make a comeback, but with a reformed target audience and approach to implementing the values they’ll teach.

Last year’s district-wide workshops were poorly attended, partially because they were held at a single site and partially because they were after school and partially because attendance wasn’t enforced, all of which added up to produce ineffective efforts in improving cultural sensitivity.

It’s disappointing that this must remain a focus, but the district has an opportunity to reflect on and correct the original workshops’ flaws to make them more impactful. If we really want to see safer campuses, holding optional workshops at one site after school can’t be the most effective way to achieve this.

If RHS can prioritize academic intervention with a compulsory ROAR period as a part of the regular school day, the same priority should be shown on cultural sensitivity with mandated trainings. These new efforts need to engage students most importantly, but also be more accessible and convenient for families to attend.

This time around, to truly be effective, the process has to involve students, and it won’t work if its effectiveness depends on a few attendees to share the workshops teachings with high schoolers. And whether it’s holding periodic class assemblies during school, or holding the workshops at each site shortly after school or even distributing information from the meetings to students through flyers or emails, the efforts need to be geared toward directly reaching students.

Directly reaching students in cultural sensitivity workshops would be a more impactful method than relying on staff to be in the right situation at the right time to apply their cultural wisdom. This is especially apparent considering how the two instances of discrimination occurred in settings in which teachers aren’t actively present: on social media and allegedly in the student section at a football game.

If we really want to see safer campuses, we can’t stick to this defensive effort, the passive publicity of which made it seem placative rather than preventionary. We can’t just revive these workshops with each instance of discrimination, invite families and staff and say “we tried,” because that is a cycle doomed to repeat itself.

The new efforts need to be an offensive, work from the bottom up and communicate with the root of the problems, the students, because it’s not staff being discriminatory online or in the student section or on family’s front lawns – it’s the students.

And it’s not staff who will always be present in these situations to prevent them from happening – it’s the students.

This doesn’t mean staff doesn’t have a place in these efforts, it means that whatever the efforts communicate needs to be relayed to students as well.