Injustice for WVUSD

In a world plagued with racism, sexism and discrimination, it’s important that we, as individuals, hold one another accountable for our words and actions.

Following the Black Lives Matter movement and its message, many students in districts across the nation have begun to stand up for themselves and their peers against teachers and staff that foster discrimination on campus. Following suit, several Diamond Bar High School students and alumni petitioned the district calling for transparency and accountability. 

As well-intentioned as this petition was, its execution was woefully misguided and poorly researched.

To create their petition, alumni opened up a survey for students, parents and alumni of any Walnut Valley Unified School District campus to list their grievances. These accounts were then compiled onto a document, alongside a preface and a mission statement, that was released to the public.

The first version of this document listed the names of the accused staff members. However, it lacked a link between the incidents and the staff members, so nobody would know which teacher was accused of what. While some accusations were relatively minor, others were more serious—teachers making direct, overtly racist remarks to students. This defeats the only possible purpose there could’ve been for listing names: to have staff to reflect on their actions.

Even aside from that reasoning, these accusations were all unverifiable. While I’m sure many were true, the potential for false accusations is immense with these types of petitions. Students with a grievance against a teacher can say anything they want, free of consequences. 

Though I’m not saying that every account should be disregarded, I do think that individual stories should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. The real importance of the document isn’t the impact of each allegation, but the overall pattern of ignorance that it reveals– even considering that some may be fabricated.

The names of staff members were later removed, but even in the current version of the document, there are problems. Countless accusations have similar stories: A student was discriminated against in some way, reported the perpetrator to their teacher or counselor and never heard back—either that, or they claim that no action was taken.

 I highly doubt that any counselor outright ignored any students’ grievances; they take everything they hear very seriously. If you visit the office after school, you can see the GLCs working late hours almost every day just to make sure every student’s needs are taken care of. What some students may believe to be inaction is, in fact, the counselor’s obligation to not reveal the punishment that the offending party received. 

In fact, I have personally experienced a similar situation. During my sophomore year, a student made a threat—supposedly jokingly—of an explicitly sexual nature against me. When I reported them to my grade level coordinator, Stephanie Duenas, she assured me that action would be taken. Though I never got to know what happened to him, I trusted her to do the right thing to keep our campus safe. I think that a lot of students with similar incidents simply didn’t trust their GLCs to take adequate action, assuming that none was taken, but that’s nobody’s fault—not their own, and certainly not the GLCs’. (Full disclosure: my mother works in the Guidance Office)

Another example, this time of a so-called “act of racism,” was as follows: When a student claimed that their classmate said all members of BTS look the same, they reported the student to their teacher, and the teacher ignored them. Once again, I see the potential for a misunderstanding, but there are very strict beauty standards for K-pop idols that lead many to have similar makeup, body shapes and overall styles. While it may be harder to tell for those who aren’t active fans, there are entire online albums of side-by-side comparisons where members of the group look uncannily similar.

Other harmless incidents were also listed, such as one where a “student reported overhearing one staff member tell another that they would go to countries like Japan but ‘could never imagine herself going to somewhere like Egypt.’” As much as I understand that it could be misconstrued by someone actively looking for racist remarks, I fail to see how that’s racist. The comment could’ve been about any of the following factors: Continent, weather, tourism industry, dietary accommodations or crime rates, just to name a few.

Furthermore, many students reported incidents involving  peers saying the N-word in classrooms and hallways, and teachers did nothing to discipline them. While this may be true in some cases, hearing is something that is touch and go, especially in loud, crowded hallways. I doubt many teachers even heard students saying these things. 

Even if they did hear them, picking up a student on such an account isn’t enough to  single out the student who said it, find them, and take them up to the office.

 If these students heard racist remarks, it’s their responsibility to report them just as much as it is the teachers’. We, as students, are far greater in number and have the power to hold our peers accountable for their words and actions. We can’t just blame staff and administration for not taking action when they’re hardly staffed enough to deal with violence, drug use and other, more serious incidents on campus.

While I stand by the mission of the Justice for WVUSD campaign, its questionable claims and poor execution makes it hard not to think that it could’ve been done in a better way—one that didn’t cast unnecessary doubt on our hard-working staff.