District to address racist student behavior
Students make discriminatory, anti-Semitic comments on Kanan Shuttle
November 30, 2017
The sheriff was called to investigate a hate crime involving a middle school student, who yelled, “Jews, get off” on the Kanan Shuttle at the stop near Oak Hills Elementary School in early October.
According to Medea Creek Middle School Principal Brad Benioff, this wasn’t the only discriminatory incident on the Kanan Shuttle this year.
“There were other incidents reported about students being called the n-word. In a couple of the reported incidents, we could not identify the perpetrator, but we were able to identify the student involved in the anti-Semitic comments,” Benioff wrote to the Talon.
Even with a large audience on the shuttle, this event was only reported by a parent who heard about the incident from their child.
“A student on the bus reported the incident to their parent, who reported it to us. One of the sad [or] difficult aspects of this was that there were about 20 students on the bus, but only one was willing to report anything,” Benioff wrote.
However, for the administrators and the district, this incident raised the question of how to reduce, if not stop such incidents from happening again.
“We also have worked on ongoing programs, particularly with our WEB program to bring out awareness of these issues. Unfortunately, in the last couple of years, the frequency of incidents on campus, in the Conejo Valley and in the worldwide news has increased,” Benioff wrote. “We are making students aware of the incidents, how they are unacceptable and the consequences they can face for engaging in them, but we are also looking for student input into how we can combat these issues.”
Director of curriculum and instruction, Jay Greenlinger, is currently putting together instructional materials such as an anthology of texts called the Civil Rights Shelf from Heinemann to present to the Curriculum Council. If the Curriculum Council approves the materials, it will submit a motion to the School Board in order to approve the purchase.
“The purchase of these materials will help us make acceptance, understanding and social justice an integrated concept in our classroom, not just a special topic for assemblies or in reaction to events,” Greenlinger wrote to the Talon.
According to the publisher, reading does help in creating empathy and social awareness.
Audra Robb and Emily Strang Campbell wrote in the article Social Issues Books Clubs: Reading for Empathy and Advocacy, “In middle school, many kinds of issues start to weigh more heavily on students: relationship issues, school issues, and a growing awareness of larger societal pressures. There can be serious consequences to the spiraling troubles that surround middle school kids. A recent Washington Post article titled, ‘Does Reading Make You a Better Person?’ concludes that the answer to the title question is ‘Yes!’ Reading literature especially has proven to increase people’s ability to empathize with others, and to be more socially aware.”
Greenlinger wishes to implement novels into the fourth and fifth grade curriculum that relate to the struggle of facing racism and sexism.
“This on-level collection contains texts on the broader topic of civil rights in the United States, including the women’s suffrage movement as well as the 1960s civil rights movement. Including texts on a range of topics and reading levels, this collection includes broad surveys to provide your students with an overview of the topic, as well as books on more specialized subtopics,” Greenlinger wrote in a document outlining the summary of the materials.
“The biggest roadblock is the ‘code of silence’ that students have in regards to any type of harassment. We have looked for ways to have students be able to report anonymously, but there is still the fear that getting involved [will cause] the target to fall on the reporting student,” Benioff wrote. “We utilize an online anonymous report called ‘Medea Report It’ where students can send us an anonymous email. We need to change this perception and [implement] methods for students to be comfortable in reporting. At the same time, we need to further educate; we know that understanding and empathizing with others is the key to reducing these types of actions.”