West Seattle HS families discuss racism, equity at workshop before ‘No Place For Hate’ school-wide launch

Story and photos by Jason Grotelueschen
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Members of the West Seattle High School community gathered to participate in an “Undoing Racism and Teaching Equity to Teens” educational workshop led by Families of Color Seattle (FOCS).

The workshop, held in the WSHS library last Wednesday night as part of the WSHS PTSA general meeting, was part of the school’s No Place for Hate program by the Anti-Defamation League, with a goal to “help establish and maintain a school environment where all students can thrive.” It’s being launched three months after a “school-wide positive response” was promised following incidents in which students were disciplined for “racist language and symbols.”

After a brief WSHS PTSA meeting to start the evening, the program was introduced by (pictured from left-to-right above) WSHS principal Brian Vance, along with WSHS Racial Equity Team members Angela Ferda, Amber Donaldson, Jennifer Hall, and Annie Zhou.

Vance noted that due to snow cancellations the prior week, WSHS had to postpone its original January 15 kickoff of the No Place for Hate program — they will now be introducing it to students and families on February 5 (during Black Lives Matter in School Week from February 3-7). At the core of the program is the following pledge that will be signed by students:

  • I will seek to gain understanding of those who are different from me
  • I will speak out against prejudice and discrimination
  • I will reach out to support those who are targets of hate
  • I will promote respect for people and help foster a prejudice-free school
  • I believe that one person can make a difference—no person can be an “innocent” bystander when it comes to opposing hate
  • I recognize that respecting individual dignity and promoting intergroup harmony are the responsibilities of all students

Members of the Racial Equity Team talked about various WSHS efforts, including the annual Equity Days and multicultural events as well as Diversity Club and recurring classroom discussion circles, as examples of the school’s ongoing commitment to addressing issues of racial equity. Donaldson emphasized that teachers, staff and students all play an important role in achieving the goal for the school and its surrounding community: “When you come to WSHS, we are a family. Everyone counts and no one feels left out.”

After that introduction from WSHS staff, special guests Christine Tang and Adana Protonentis from FOCS (pictured left-to-right below) led attendees through a workshop designed to equip families to engage with students and community members about issues of race, anti-racism, and anti-bias.

Tang and Protonentis said they strive to help achieve an overall purpose of building safer spaces, fostering healthy identity in kids and identifying available community resources. They showed a series of slides, videos and illustrative examples and noted that “undoing racism is a work of love — yes, there is anger and injustice, but we come at it from a point of love.”

On the topic of talking about race and racism with teens, the presenters offered these tips:

  • Tell them the truth
  • Give them a safe space to process the truth
  • Give them examples of ways they can take action
  • Engage your kids in creating their solutions
  • Model vulnerability and be okay with messiness
  • Think about how you’ll handle YOUR emotions in these conversations
  • The most important thing is to stick with it

The facilitators then asked attendees to break into pairs and share thoughts and reactions to a variety of issues and situations, including how race and racism were discussed with you as a child, the violence at the 2017 Charlottesville rally and the rising prevalence of racist memes on social media. This was followed by a discussion of available resources and “next steps” for taking action locally, including websites like The Intentionalist, which lists businesses that are owned by members of marginalized communities.

Tang also shared “homework” and educational resources with workshop attendees:

Principal Vance encouraged WSHS family members who want to get involved with future No Place For Hate events to email him at brvance@seattleschools.org.

1 Reply to "West Seattle HS families discuss racism, equity at workshop before 'No Place For Hate' school-wide launch"

  • Mkl January 27, 2020 (3:03 pm)

    Thanks for sharing this out  WSB!  I was attending (my son is at WSHS) and it was great. The FOCS session was fantastic and the work that Ms Ferda, Donaldson, Hall, and Zhou are doing is really exciting. Great to hear about all the good stuff happening….

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