Racial crisis in Redlands sparks backlash against the district

By MAURICIO PLIEGO

A recent post on social media of actions by two students at Redlands East Valley High School led to a problematic week of final exams for students and administrators alike. Two female REV students, one a senior and one a sophomore, can be seen in a video posted on the platform TikTok making racial gestures towards a young Asian American influencer.

The video went viral and school and district administrators, such as REV Principal Robert Clarey and Superintendent Mauricio Arellano, were contacted by many people both in and outside the district.

Both the family and authorities were contacted over the situation and worked with the school to find a proper solution. However, this created a backlash, as some students believe that the school and administration have failed them more than once and would do so again. Several students claimed that they had been in similar situations of discrimination, but the administration only stood by.

Inara Khankashi, a sophomore from Citrus Valley High School, says that “at a school where the majority of students are people of color, it is unacceptable that acts of blatant racism just go by with no consequences.” 

Students expressed concerns about not only the incident itself but the district’s response to it. When the incident first was reported to the administration, an email was sent out that explained the school’s legal limitations to enforce any direct discipline due to the fact that the incident did not occur during school or on campus, although they did not condone the student’s behavior.

Victoria Lee, a sophomore at REV, says, “Although I understand that the school may have their hands tied as [her] actions took place off-campus, it upsets me that these two students haven’t been correctly disciplined nor grew from their actions.” 

Many students brought up the discussion leading up to the anti-racism resolution, which was created by a committee of Redlands students and staff members. It was passed by the Redlands School Board in October in response to members of the community calling out racism to be a health crisis.

Within the resolution, it states “Now, therefore, be it further resolved that the Redlands Unified School District Board of Education will implement and reinforce, with intent and fidelity, policies and practices that reflect a conscious effort to ensure racial equity, equity of access and service, cultural education, and diversity at all levels within our organization.”

Some adults, like Susan Broome, parent of two former students from RUSD, say, “I oppose the resolution because of its many false premises and assumptions, and ideological promotion.” 

Some students have expressed their disapproval and disappointment with the action that the district has taken towards the REV student in light of the recently-passed resolution.

Joleen Bakalova, a sophomore from CVHS and a contributor to the resolution, says, “The REV administration should have followed the guidance we outlined in the resolution against racism. After all, what good is a resolution if it is not implemented.” 

A post from the Wildcats for Change Instagram explaining the stance of the group and some students at REV. (Photo credit to Wildcats4change Instagram)

Wildcats for Change, a club at REV that looks to help fix social injustice at the high school and through the district, used Instagram to show support for groups being discriminated against.

In response to students call for action, the Redlands Unified School District incorporated small townhall-like meetings for students In December and January. These meetings were separated into two days each for the different high schools in the district. Each had small groups in breakout rooms on the video communication platform Zoom filled with student and teacher representatives from Students For Change, counselors, and other district members to answer any questions for the students.

Brooklynn Rios, a sophomore at REV who participated in the town-hall zoom sessions, says, “They spoke a lot about how they wanted to implement these changes to benefit the students and what standpoints we had about school and how it can be better.”

Featured Photo: An illustration depicting the feeling that many students have felt due to the past events, as some might feel muted and unimportant. (Mauricio Pliego / Ethic News Art)

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