Student survey shows racism, homophobia and sexism in
Monroe schools, but also discomfort with speaking up against it
MONROE — A recent student research project found that many students had experienced racism or other types of hate speech within the Monroe School District (MSD).
The findings, based on a survey by the Monroe Inclusion Collective, were presented to the Monroe School Board during its Jan. 11 meeting by students Nathan Duong, Kelsey Borland and Zoe Yates, who are leaders in the collective.
Out of 89 total respondents, 58.43% indicated they had experienced anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech within Monroe High School or the MSD community. The report, titled the Monroe Inclusiveness and Anti-Racism/Hate Research Project, also found that 57.3% of respondents had experienced racism and 58.43% had experienced sexism.
“I am from a multicultural family, my mom is Jewish and Scottish and Irish and my dad’s Vietnamese, so, I’ve had a lot of people make fun of the fact that I’m multicultural. They call it gross, stuff like that,” Borland said. “I’m also part of the LGBTQ+ community, so I’ve definitely been called slurs like (derogatory word for lesbian) and f - - - - t.”
The survey also indicated that students are unlikely to report these experiences to school personnel, as 81.93% of respondents who experienced racism or other types of hate speech did not report it to school personnel. The reasons for this were submitted anonymously,
but some of the recurring reasons stated in the survey were: “I didn’t trust that staff would do anything helpful,” that there is “a history of staff inaction and empty words towards hate speech,” and that racism and hate speech felt normalized at the school.
Many of the students who said they did report these incidents to school personnel also said they felt unsafe afterward, as 81.48% of those who did report incidents of hate speech were not satisfied or did not feel safe afterwards. The reasons submitted were also anonymous, but some of the reasons indicated were “I felt shamed by the staff when I had reported it” and “I felt like if I reported it, conditions would get worse from offenders, either from prior experience or fear.”
The students who performed the survey were initially brought in by the district after an incident in June last year involving two Monroe High School students using the N-word, and later defending their use of the slur in a video. The video led to the resignation of Monroe School Board member Jerry Martin, whose daughter was one of the two students involved.
“We started in the summer when a racist incident happened, with two students of ours in Monroe High School,” Yates said. “And from that the school district wanted to create a group of students and create a committee working for racial inequality and racial justice.”
The students volunteered to do the survey as the district’s resources were spread thin dealing with issues related to Covid-19. The students later formed the Inclusion Collective to keep the district engaged with racial inequality and racial justice.
The students in the collective also submitted several ideas to help the school community be more inclusive. Some of these solutions include; providing
care and resources to people of color, LGBTQ+, and marginalized students; transparency of practices, policies and trainings; inclusive and diverse curricular changes; policy change for responding to racism and hate; and increasing diversity, equity and inclusion training.
The students in the Inclusion Collective said that while the school board of directors responded positively, the district is not moving as fast as the collective would like.
“We don’t have any like, ill faith in them or anything,” Duong said. “We’re just trying to get this, get these policy changes, hammered out and we really just want to work with them and collaborate with them in a productive and constructive manner.”
Regarding the Inclusion Collective’s presentation, the school district said in a statement that “district leaders were very impressed by the presentation and suggestions brought forth by the students of the Monroe Inclusivity Collective and would like to thank them for the information and input provided.”
School district spokeswoman Erin Zacharda also said district administrators are currently training with the Continua Consulting Group.
“This diversity/equity/inclusion professional development will increase sensitivity, awareness, and overall competency when it
comes to supporting our marginalized students with the objective of providing equitable educational opportunities for all students,” Zacharda said in an email.
While the Inclusion Collective is still hoping for more action from the school district, they are optimistic about the future of the school district because of the community’s response.
“We were pretty blown away by it, by the outpouring of support from parents, from students, from teachers, from the principal, the vice principal. Mr. (Brett) Wille and Ms. (Shannon) Tarrach have been very great supporters,” Duong said.
“And we had like, 100 people attend that presentation on the 11th, which was a really, really strong show of support.”
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