Racist outburst impedes learning at Portland middle school
Another incident of racist hate speech — uttered by an unknown intruder — interrupted the learning environment for middle schoolers in the Portland Public Schools district.
Administrators for Lane Middle School say eighth-grade students had gathered virtually for a language arts class on Tuesday, Oct. 6, when an unidentified person joined the class with their computer camera turned off.
"They called the teacher by her first name and then repeated a racist word several times," Principal Michael Rowell told parents in a letter later that day.
"The teacher quickly ejected this person from the session, stopping any further interaction and then held a brief discussion with her class which focused on the importance of keeping her classroom safe for everyone and rejecting hate speech as destructive to her learning community," he continued.
Racism, sexual imagery and other hateful speech has wreaked havoc on live-broadcast assemblies and classrooms in at least eight Oregon school districts during the 2020-2021 school year.
Pamplin Media Group has previously reported on a spate of incidents at public school districts in Lake Oswego, North Clackamas, Canby, Molalla, Portland Public Schools and David Douglas school districts. Sexual and racist imagery disrupted a class in the Salem-Keizer district, KGW reported. A man uttered a student's name and then "exposed himself" during an online class in Medford, according to KPTV.
The cyberattack at Lane apparently targeted educator Hanna McGrath. Beyond continuing their "social justice" focus as a school, Principal Rowell said administrators would address the issue at the next live class session in order to provide support to students.
"We believe that Black lives matter at Lane Middle School," he said.
One local parent with a daughter at Lane Middle School believes the isolation brought on by social distancing may be preventing students from learning about the community around them — but says ultimately the hate starts at home.
"It's not really a school issue, it's a home issue being expressed in school. It shows to me the dichotomy we find ourselves in," Daniel Allen told Pamplin Media Group, reflecting on other incidents of racist outbursts during online learning.
"It's hard because I don't know what the school can do, other than say, 'hey this is unacceptable.' They can change what the schools teach, but they can't change what the parents teach at home."
Allen, who has three kids in school, said he knows at least one class has touched on the recent social unrest in Portland, prompting students to reflect on the protests. He said he welcomes the dialogue and supports efforts by the school district to provide better racial history education and training on racism, but wonders if parents shouldn't have access to similar seminars and training.
This story has been updated since it was first published.
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