Do you have the ‘n word’ pass?

June 20, 2020

Last Tuesday Mr. Foley sent out an email about the situation that occurred in year 12 which led to the suspension of two students. The year 12s also had an assembly about the issue where they discussed what had happened. But this led to the year 12s being divided into two, debating on whether suspending both students was the right or wrong decision. 

 

A couple of weeks ago, an ISL student (Student A) said the ‘n word’ in an audio and actual message as well as a racist meme of the year level leader within a year group chat. Multiple people ignored the message until Student B responded with “Don’t think I’ll ever understand what makes you think you have the right to say that”. People started to back up Student B leading to a heavy discussion about why the word was used, and whether it was racist. More offensive and sarcastic remarks were made such as “Attention: if you are caught saying the n-word you WILL be told off by females who believe they are social icons and will make a change in society”. A student questioned, “how just saying a word, even though not directed to anyone can cause offense”. This only sparked the discussion with more people voicing their opinion. When the word continued to be used, the tone of the conversation turned more serious. Student B tried to address the issue with their peers as they believed that the larger issue of racism should be discussed as few knew the negative connotations related to certain words, however, they made no progress. So they went to ISL for support. Racism clearly needs to be addressed more often, as this isn’t the first time racism has been discussed within ISL. 

 

Evidence was provided to the school of the racist comments which had been made. Not only that, but it transpired that students had also taken a picture of a staff member without consent, posted racist images, as well as an offensive picture with the ‘n-word’ to social media with offensive comments; thus confirming that this was not an isolated incident. 

 

However, students within the group chat still continued to attack Student B and making comments towards them including such things as: “(Student B) is a bitch for screenshotting this and emailing it to Mr. Kirby. I dare your fake ass to deal with your problems yourself”. People even decided to take it as far as calling their house phone and telling Student B’s parents that they were a “snitch bitch”. This information was given to the school and the school’s leadership discussed the actions they should take regarding this situation. Even though people stand up to racism- they are still targeted, which promotes bystander behaviour within ISL, as people are afraid to speak up. This explores another large issue within our school community as the only way to stop racism is to speak up, which is impossible if students do not feel safe in doing so. This is why being an ally is so important, as it encourages others to do so as well. 

 

Student B themselves felt the need to clarify that “The decision that was taken by the school had nothing to do with me”, as students continued to harass them. Student B went on by saying that “The people suspended faced those consequences not because of what I had done, but because of what they had done. I know I did the right thing. If this is what I get for speaking up against racist behavior, then everyone needs to seriously check themselves. It is never ok to treat someone the way I was treated”. 

 

After the school leadership team had multiple discussions about the incident they made a decision about what the response for the students involved should be. The school decided to talk to Student A as well as Student C who decided to make offensive remarks towards Student B. Students A and C had multiple discussions with their parents and the school leadership team about the situation as well as the things they said. Following this, the decision was made to suspend both students. 

 

Multiple students commented when interviewed that the school had a bias towards a few students. A student even said that the situation was “100% biased” against one of the students because of their previous actions. Mr. Foley explained that “The response of the school depends on several complex factors. These include the nature of the incident in question, whether the behaviour is sustained or a one-off, and whether this forms part of a broader pattern for the individuals involved”.

 

There was a larger debate amongst the year 12s as to why Student C who called Student B   “a bitch” in a group chat outside of school was suspended. However, Student C continued to harass Student B through various platforms. ISL explained that this suspension occurred because “ISL has a set of values. These are honesty, respect, self-control, equality, and care. When an incident occurs which goes against these, such as harassment or bullying, the school must respond”. This clearly explains the reason behind both suspensions, and that ISL doesn’t tolerate any form of racism or harassment. 

 

A reason why this incident is so controversial is because racism within our school has been normalized and has usually been seen as “jokes” between students. This is why one student said that “I thought that the assembly we had last week went as most students might have anticipated, the school obviously has to follow a certain protocol and conduct”. The school has a duty to protect its students from any signs of bullying including discrimination and in this case “People need to be aware that even if their intentions are only ‘joke oriented’ it’s still an issue and puts them in the wrong” (ISL student). 

 

This is just one of many examples of racism within our school, but ever since the year 13 assembly and the current situation within our world, more people are breaking away from simply being a bystander and are actually taking action to stop racism. The school is ready to approach these situations with a zero-tolerance policy. The High is here to help start the conversation which has been necessary for many years. Racism is everywhere, even within our privileged ISL community.

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