West Seattle High School principal Brian Vance has disclosed that students have been disciplined for use of “racist language and symbols.” Multiple recipients forwarded us this letter he sent to families last night:
Recently, there has been a couple of incidents where students have used racist language and symbols with and against each other. Religious bigotry, racism, and discrimination go against every core belief held by the school and district and will not be tolerated. As West Seattle High School’s principal, I take the responsibility to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive learning environment very seriously.
While these individual incidents were addressed immediately, I want to share with the broader school community what has been done and my expectations moving forward.
Disciplinary procedures were followed for students who used the racial slurs or shared inappropriate imagery. We worked with Central Office and handled discipline in accordance with the student code of conduct.
In these situations, it is important to address the harm caused and promote healing. In our Advisory periods, we showed a video message from me denouncing these acts and putting out a call to come together as a community. In addition, students viewed a student produced video on micro-aggressions and students participated in restorative circles to share experiences and mend relationships.
As Principal, I am committed to ensuring that every student at WSHS thrives, and as educators, we must continue our own professional growth and be intentional in our racial equity work. In response to these incidents, WSHS staff are taking the following actions.
All staff participated in staff circles to discuss issues on race and bias.
All staff will participate in continued training on bias and interrupting hate speech this coming Wednesday, October 30.
I will work in partnership with the SPS Department of Racial Equity and Advancement to create and implement a professional growth plan for WSHS staff for the rest of the school year. We will also use guidance from the Department of Racial Equity and Advancement and work with our school’s Race and Equity team to develop student-focused resources and ongoing training for our young people to understand hate speech, stereotypes, and biases.
We will be implementing a school wide positive response that will allow us to set clear expectations and a collective response in bringing our community together. More details on this will come out once we finalize the program.
I also want to remind our broader community that high school students are learning and developing during these formative years.
I encourage you to use this situation as an opportunity to talk with your student about the perpetuation of hate, racism, and anti-Semitism and the consequences – now and into the future – that may result. Teaching Tolerance has a parent guide for addressing these topics with young people.
As a community, we will not tolerate bullying, discrimination, or harassment. I continue to be proud to be part of a community that is supportive and welcoming and ask for your partnership in making sure WSHS students always embody these values. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
We requested followup details through Seattle Public Schools spokesperson Tim Robinson. He said this refers to “verbal” incidents: “Three completely separate incidents since the start of school.” We also requested the video mentioned in the principal’s letter; our request was turned down; Robinson said, “He prefers not to disseminate it further, but he points out that it is largely a reiteration of the points in the letter. It was about a minute long.” The Code of Conduct to which the letter refers has a disciplinary matrix you can see here.