Lakeville South High School students and staff are coming together to begin healing and moving forward after racist, anti-Semitic vandalism was discovered on Feb. 27 at the school.
As students returned to Lakeville South High School Wednesday (following ACT testing on Tuesday), some students were expressing anger, concern and frustration over what had happened. Sensing the need to help students come together, the deans and cultural liaisons identified student leaders — both formal and informal — and asked them to take part in a conversation about what troubled them, how the actions of one individual in this instance didn’t reflect the majority of students and how they wanted to move forward.
The six students — including three student council members and three quiet leaders — agreed that they were not OK with what had transpired Feb. 27. Some talked about other instances of racism, sexism and other intolerance they experienced or witnessed, and how that made them feel angry, hurt and even powerless.
Some of the instances of intolerance experienced or witnessed were willful, they said. But at other times they said they felt like it stemmed from ignorance on the parts of the people engaging in that behavior.
With about 18 percent students of color, Lakeville Area Public Schools’ diversity is growing but still not prominent. The students urged the district to help them learn about and appreciate cultures as a way to develop understanding and respect. All six students agreed that students and teachers needed to work together to move forward to create an environment that welcomes all people.
At the end of the meeting, the students worked together to create a statement that they then read to over the intercom between fourth and fifth hours.
Dean Dr. Dana Kelly said she was proud of the students for their work.
“I know this has been tough for our students, but I’m proud of how they’ve come together,” Kelly said.
The school took other steps, too. The district’s Equity Department and cultural liaisons brought students together over the lunch hour to discuss the vandalism.
Dr. Julie Beddow-Schubert, the district’s director of Teaching and Learning who leads the district’s equity efforts, said she was proud of the students for being willing to share their experiences and their hopes for the future.
“These courageous young men and women spoke of the need for tolerance and acceptance of other human beings in a heartfelt and forward thinking manner,” Beddow-Schubert said.
Read the statement below:
Our fellow Cougar students:
We are troubled by what happened Monday. This is NOT OK. We believe the actions of one student do not embody the thoughts of the entire student body. We believe there are important lessons we can learn. We know there is work to do.
Sometimes, things are said that we perceive as hurtful. Sometimes, the people who are saying those things don’t even know what they’re saying can harm others. Often, it comes from ignorance. We feel like this school isn’t exposed to a lot of culture because we aren’t that diverse, and we’d like to change that. If you hear something said to another person that would hurt you, say something.
Sometimes, that ignorance is willful. And that hurts. We can’t change others, but we can avoid succumbing to it ourselves. We need to speak out against it.
Maybe we could have prevented what happened Monday. We all hear racist or sexist comments that we ignore because don’t know what to do or say. Often our teachers don’t even always know what to say. We want everyone to speak up. We all have the power to say something, to tell people discrimination is not welcome here.
We know some of our students feel like nothing may change. People need to be held accountable for their actions, but we also need to treat these incidents as opportunities to learn. We need to be open with one another. We can change things if we are all willing to work together, to learn from one another and to be more accepting of one another.
Step out of your comfort zone. Talk to that person next to you in class. Get to know one another. Everyone is welcome at Lakeville South.