At forum, students discuss racist incident, consider future actions


Maria Shaughnessy

Senior Leah Runesha speaks while students listen during the open forum March 11 that discussed the recent racist incident. Students proposed steps the community can make to prevent these incidents in the future.

Amanda Cassel, Managing Editor

Almost 60 students gathered during lunchtime March 11 to help reconcile a racist incident and discuss climate at Lab at a forum run entirely by students. Student Council, Social Justice Week and Unity Council hosted the meeting, which ran over by 15 minutes as students shared personal frustrations and criticisms of current and ideas for future action.

The meeting began with clarifying questions. High school principal Paul Beekmeyer joined the meeting as, in his words, “a guest,” and detailed to students the incident and the consequences.

According to Mr. Beekmeyer, a U-High student attended Altitude Trampoline Park over the weekend and filled each of the spaces on the digital liability form with racist words charged toward black people. Mr. Beekmeyer explained that a different U-High student received a digital image of the form and passed it along to the administration. 

Administrators acted on Monday, March 9, to investigate the student who used the racist terms.

“The student is no longer welcome nor a member of the school community,” Mr. Beekmeyer said.

In response, senior Gershon Stein said at the forum that students know such action is “not good in school, but the school needs to help people understand that this isn’t good or a joke anywhere.”

Replying, junior Oman Siddiqui noted the lack of isolation of racist incidents and questioned whether the incident was propagated by the school community in the first place.

Multiple hands suddenly shot in the air with responses. Junior Lilah Wallach said that anything that happens in response will not break the cycle of normalized racism. Sophomore Tristan Brown said education that changes how one thinks about others cannot be forced on anyone but must be a conscious and active engagement from the person. Multiple comments articulated that students feel the administration is reactive rather than proactive and emphasized that students need the space within the school year and the curriculum to acknowledge, learn about and celebrate diversity.

Laboratory Schools Director Charlie said in an interview with the Midway that the recently revised Diversity Action Plan will help the community move forward and prevent future incidents.

Meanwhile, students are calling for changes in the classroom. Junior Destiney Williamson pointed out that as the meeting began to run over students began to get concerned about making it to class and the repercussions of being late. She said that students should be focused on the importance of the issue at hand and not worry about a tardy.

Mr. Beekmeyer echoed this concern describing how if students want to be taken seriously as activists they need to be willing to take risks and make concrete actions.

To help students be clear about the seriousness of insensitive jokes, All-School President Ben Cifu and All-School Vice President Constantin Carrigan started a campaign of posters for students to put on their lockers that say “‘X’ is not a joke” where ‘X’ is replaced with sexism, racism, white supremacy and other similar terms. These posters can be picked up in the learning and counseling office.