On the same day that we were offered some semblance of hope or renewal, our very first black female Vice President taking the oath of office, our students are dealing with a system that allows for such blatant racism to run rampant in our schools. Students at Lowell High School had to endure yet another attack during an Anti-Racism lesson facilitated by Lowell where many students participated in a public online platform to share honest and thought provoking responses. What they saw instead were pornographic images, slurs, and other hateful comments.
My immediate response is how sickening this all is, that our young people have to be the ones who deal with this. This incident is unfortunately not an isolated one and is an indication of the deeper problems our District must address. In 2016, students staged a walkout after the administration failed to address racist imagery posted in the school. Their demand remains unmet five years later. This past fall, we witnessed more of this behavior when a Black student leader was shouted down while making comments during a Board meeting and later targeted with threats and hate speech online.
As a district, we are called upon to address the anti-Black racism in our schools and especially those with selective enrollment. They can no longer be “breeding grounds for racism” as students described.
Education is the opportunity we all have to end hate and bigotry. Our students are telling us this must end, and we can no longer stand idly by without responding with concrete action and accountability. On behalf of our students, their list of asks are simple and is one we can all collectively work together on:
- Students demand recognition of these heinous acts.
- Students demand acknowledgment that the actions that have been taken to address this violence are not enough.
- Students demand that we start honoring the demands that were set during the Lowell Black Student Union Walkout in 2016.
- Students demand that the administration take immediate action not only to find who caused this harm, but also punish them to the greatest extent.
- Students demand that the administration ceases to censor students who speak up about racism at Lowell.
- Students demand that the administration address the ongoing racist history and culture at Lowell.
What message are we sending to our young people if we allow this to continue? If you are for students, if you are standing with them, if you are fighting to ensure the greatest outcome for our youth, meanwhile failing to address these very real issues when they arise, then the burden will continue to fall on our most vulnerable students.
Gabriela López is the President of the San Francisco Board of Education and a former elementary school teacher in SFUSD. To reach her directly, email email@example.com