Racial education seminars, where did they go?


Part of the Wednesday schedule on the Northshore School District website

Kaya Suraci, Reporter

The summer of 2020 was a time of great social movement and great change, especially in America. In the wake of the unjust killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among many others, the Black Lives Matter campaign and others relating to social justice gained new momentum and sparked world-wide protests on a scale that has never been seen before. Many public figures and companies with pasts of upholding systemic racism or having held racist policies or beliefs were held accountable for their actions. This social change branched out into becoming a new wave of social activism due to the presence of many Black people and other groups that experience intersectionality- the idea that a person can experience discrimination or oppression due to multiple facets of their life.

The Northshore School District and Bothell High School were not held exempt from this rapid social change. Many students, administrators, and teachers were forced to acknowledge that systemic racism had invaded their schools. Many students were left wondering, how are they going to talk about this? Well, the answer was easy- they didn’t.

The biggest let-down was that we thought they would. When schedules sanctioned by the Northshore School District first went up, many students first noticed the ideas of a “soft start” to help students ease into online learning. Another important change from Northshore Learns 2.0 was the presence of asynchronous learning, which according to the Northshore School District website, was specifically supposed to include “Social and Racial Justice Seminars” (see right). But at Bothell High School, there has been no reference to these seminars that I in particular was very excited for. Now, I generally assumed this could very well be due to the amount of work that is required to start a school year online. No doubt, this year has been ridiculously difficult for many students- and that difficulty applies to anyone in the Northshore School District right now. I do not doubt the intentions of the school district. Simply look through their website and see all of the different ways that they are “dedicated to moving toward the positive culture outcomes students deserve”. But acknowledging the social movements that took place over the summer needs to be immediate, and has not been at Bothell High School. The Northshore School District as a whole has professionals such as Racial & Educational Justice Executive Director, Chris Bigelow. Bigelow says that the seminars “[were] removed as it felt arbitrary” and that their new curriculum was not required of educators but “is strongly recommended by the District”. Does this suffice? Will educators and individual schools take on this responsibility?

According to Pernille Petersen (‘22), a student at Inglemoor High School, there were seminars but they were not well implemented. She missed all of those that were held and says that she only heard about them after they had taken place. But even the presence of these seminars is a better attempt than Bothell High School’s lack of one. WHS has done better than both of these schools: Sidney Mays (‘21), a student who is a member of the BSU at Woodinville High School, has said that “as of today [October 8, 2020] we had one SEL lesson and the only racial justice thing shown to the whole school was the part in the assembly that we (bsu) did”. If other schools are able to do this, then why is Bothell- one of the largest schools in the district with a variety of ethnicities- not doing it?

This really concerns me. Are we just going to ignore this? We can’t simply ignore what is going on. A Black Lives Matter march went right past Bothell High School this summer- and there was no shortage of BHS students and alumni present. The demand for racial justice surrounds Bothell High School, and it is time to acknowledge it. I spoke to an active member of Bothell High School’s Black Student Union (BSU), Reagan Ferrell (‘22), who said that she “probably wouldn’t have heard about [the seminars]” had she not been a part of the BSU. She also said that the district or the school have not reached out to her BSU to help organize these seminars, and she and the rest of the BSU is very “disappointed” because “this is an example to prove that talking about racial/social justice is not something that the district cares about getting done”. But what about the administrators in BHS itself? According to Principal Juan Price, “They [racial seminars] have not been pushed out to schools yet to implement”. This shows that the schools that have held these seminars, talks, or assemblies- whether or not they were successful- have had to go above and beyond to bring a vital topic to their students. It is not for us to expect Bothell High School to bring these seminars to us when it was promised from the district as a whole. The disappointment I personally feel from the district’s lack of action is overwhelming. Not only were we given a promise that went undelivered, we were not informed of the change and left completely in the dark. Bothell High School holds some of the blame for not taking its own action to address the racial issues present both in and out of the school, but the district’s allowance of this complacency is unacceptable.