Tigard High students stage walkout over racist video
An estimated 100 students walked out of classes at Tigard High School on Wednesday, Dec. 1, protesting a racist video posted on social media.
The video, allegedly showed a Tigard student on Instagram using "offensive and hurtful racist language," according to an email that principal Brian Bailey sent out to students and parents.
"I am writing to share with you a disturbing social media incident that occurred over the holiday weekend," Bailey wrote in the email. "This situation in no way represents our districts' values or our commitment to ensuring every student that walks through our doors feels welcome, respected, and safe. Additionally, it goes against everything Tigard High School (THS) stands for."
Tigard High School junior Aishiki Nag said she was appalled by the video, which allegedly showed one student asking another what they called a certain race of people, followed by the other student responding with a racial slur. That slur was followed by "literally all the racist slurs," Nag said.
"It was truly an absurd video and it made me feel pretty hopeless for a while," said Nag, who also serves as a Tigard youth councilor, a non-voting position on the Tigard City Council.
In response, students gathered in the commons area on Wednesday to protest the video and what Nag called a "racist culture in Tigard High."
She said many students shared their own stories and thoughts about the incident before walking out of the school — some carrying protest signs.
Nag said it was her understanding that the video was recorded off-campus.
Principal Bailey's letter to parents stated, "At this time, our focus will be to address the individuals who have caused harm and equally as important — to provide spaces and resources to those who have been harmed by this careless act."
He wrote to parents that the district has a board policy against bias incidents and hate speech and that the school is working to improve its culture and climate. That includes sessions on recognizing microaggressions and hate speech and creating affinity spaces — traditionally places where those with like interests can gather.
"My own personal (thought) is that the school administration is limited on the extent of the action they take, and I know that they are all upset about the video as well, but I would like to see more immediate action on antiracism in the community," Nag wrote in an email. "Maybe holding school assemblies and letting the affinity groups lead more school events might create a more urgent sense of ending (hate) speech in school."
Nag said while that might make some people uncomfortable, it's important to feel uncomfortable at times in order to create change.
"Comfort in the current system is one of the leading reasons why people are complicit," she said.
While the Instagram post was the latest incident involving so-called hate speech, it isn't an isolated incident.
In October, the Tigard- Tualatin School District sent parents an email letter stating they were seeing an increase in hate speech and first-hand "hate incidents," particularly at the middle school level. The district recently formed a special district advisory committee that is expected to help advise the school board on what actions should be taken in such incidents.
On Dec. 7, chairs of the Oregon Senate and House Committees on Education, Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, and Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, D-Woodburn, along with legislators representing Tigard, Sen. Akasha Lawrence Spence, D-Portland, and Rep. Dacia Grayber, D-Tigard, released a joint statement regarding the video and the subsequent walkout.
"We are proud and stand with the students who are standing up for what's right, denouncing videos of their student colleagues using racial slurs, and calling for equal rights for Black, Brown and students of color," according to the statement.Â
KOIN 6 News, a news partner of Pamplin Media Group, contributed to this report.
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