Dear staff and families,
The recent discoveries of hate-themed graffiti on school facilities at AHS are yet another reminder that as a community our push against ignorance and bigotry is a sustained responsibility.
We have received a number of inquiries recently about what concrete actions we, as administrators, will take to prevent such hate speech on our campuses.
Let me first say that expressions intended to unsettle, frighten, or assault the psychological safety of members of our AHS family are unacceptable in all forms. Whether those expressions are anti-black, antisemitic, or feature components of any other form of prejudice, we will both condemn this behavior and address it with every consequence that state and local policies allow.
Please take a moment to let that sink in and consider having a frank and possibly uncomfortable conversation with your students about what things like hate-driven graffiti or social media postings mean and how they will be dealt with.
Administrators have, and will continue to spend, significant hours investigating these incidents through interviews, reviews of surveillance video, and other means. In other words, students need to know that we are paying attention and will put every effort into identifying responsible parties.
From a discipline standpoint, students need to be taught just why hate speech is wrong. A recent effort by the Alameda High team to construct advisory lessons outlining the harm hate speech generates is an example of ways in which we will keep working from a curricular standpoint.
In addition to the education components, strong penalties and a hard line are very much in order when expressions that threaten or attempt to physically or psychologically terrorize members of our community based on race, religion, culture, sexuality, or gender identity are present. These expressions are intolerable and will receive our full attention and the maximum consequences allowed by the California Education Code when responsible parties are identified.
I am confident that the vast majority of our students understand this, respect this, and are committed to inclusion being our preeminent shared value.
For the handful of individuals who do not understand this, be it from a place of genuine hate, maliciousness, ignorance, indifference, or a depressing combination of these qualities, please be advised that consequences like suspension, expulsion, and referrals to law enforcement will absolutely be considered for anyone found engaging in this type of behavior.
Indeed, in some recent cases staff has in fact identified responsible parties and imposed penalties that will remain part of their permanent academic records. The fact that even those students who create harm in our community are entitled to privacy when it comes to their disciplinary records sometimes leads people to speculate that nothing is being done. This is simply not the case.
While a hard line on this issue is in my estimation appropriate, it does not mean that we will abandon our function as educators and we will continue to utilize restorative practices and educational components as many of our educators already do in our ethnic studies courses, in a cross section of our social studies offerings, advisory periods, and a variety of assigned literature and projects.
At a recent meeting with student leaders at Alameda High School I also listened to their significant concerns and welcomed their productive suggestions for improving school culture, such as high school student leaders making school culture presentations to middle schoolers to help set the tone and expectations for school culture early. This is one of many ideas we can and will consider as we work to continually improve school culture on our campuses.
In conclusion, I want all of our staff to know that as a school district we will continue to support schools and teachers in educational efforts, while working to maintain consistency in the investigatory and discipline processes when we are able to identify persons responsible for hateful expressions be they in the form of vandalism, direct threats, or other forms.
Our district and school responses can also be greatly enhanced if each and every one of our families and community members makes time to discuss this topic on a very personal level with their kids. Specifically, we ask that you try to convey the seriousness of this issue, encourage them to report behaviors or actions related to hate or hateful expressions to a trusted adult on campus, and to understand the gravity they may not yet fathom of symbols or speech that represent and/or trigger profoundly hurtful, and often transgenerational pain and trauma for many members of our community.