By SERENITY PALMERIN
The school year started only a few weeks ago, and there have already been several hateful and homophobic incidents directed toward LGBTQ+ students at Redlands East Valley High School. The largest of which was the band room vandalism that occurred on the second day of school in the Performing Arts wing. Several students tagged the bathroom door, the bulletin, and the choir door with vandalism that included several homophobic slurs and threats. The vandalism included the following statements, “You’re all gay,” “LGBTQ is a mental illness,” and “lock your doors.”
According to an interview that occurred on August 25 with Brian Hollett, the band and orchestra teacher, and Emerald Gonzalez, the theater technician, this was not the only incident that targeted students in performing arts.
Hollett stated, “On the first day of school, a burrito was thrown down the hall at the music students. On the second day, as the band was marching to the quad, food was being thrown at them, and they were also being yelled at by other students. I decided not to have the students perform and as we were walking back, someone threw milk in the halls. On Friday morning the bathroom door, the bulletin, and the choir door were vandalized. Stuff was swiped off the window and onto the floor.”
During this interview, they stated why they think the band room vandalism was able to happen and who could have caused it.
“Who is doing something about this? Is security doing anything? Is the admin doing anything? School culture allows it,” Hollett said. “If the football players were being harassed I don’t think they’d be like ‘oh well.’ It’s a political touchstone, we live in what has been a pretty conservative area. Nobody was caught and the security camera only captured the top of their head. The band room was robbed two years ago and the camera only caught the top of their head.“
Gonzalez added, “I went to admin right away and we want to find who these kids are, and punish them, there need to be consequences. The fact there was no security footage or anyone who could punish them, you don’t have any proof as to who they were. We looked at security footage for what we could, to find out who was here, they haven’t seen.”
They gave their opinion on what they would like to be done about homophobia on campus. Hollet stated, “We just want this behavior to stop. I don’t want my students to feel unsafe. ‘Lock your doors’ what does that mean? I don’t know who’s out there and what their intentions are.”
Gonzalez added, “We’re not asking for everyone to hold our hands and be friends, but don’t say those things and keep it to yourself. The change is coming. The admin is all on your side.”
After the interview, a Google Form was posted on several Google Classrooms. Results of the survey were gathered from 28 REV students including members of the band, Pride Club, and other consenting students. The form inquired about their experiences with homophobia if any at all. 14% of the students surveyed said that either themselves or a loved one has been bullied for their sexuality or gender identity at REV, and half of those students fall under the transgender umbrella. Most of those students also answered that they had been bullied by other students at REV.
However, when asked to give a summary of their bullying experience, Kris Garcia, a junior at REV answered, “although it wasn’t explicit bullying per say, I’ve experienced a lot of discrimination from many of my teachers, especially during freshman year.”
The survey also asked the students if they have ever changed a part of themselves to combat homophobia, Kris Garcia continued, “I changed my name and email to my preferred name so that teachers couldn’t use that excuse anymore.”
More responses from the survey were collected from students such as Lauren Wasmuth, a junior at REV who said, “It should be brought up with school administration because it is a serious issue. Punishment should be done to the people who are bullying. People can’t control their sexuality and they should not be bullied for something they can’t control or change.”
Kris Garcia said, “I think reports of homophobia should be taken more seriously.”
Tegan Foutz, a Sophomore at REV said, “Tell the students at REV that any form of bullying will not be allowed no matter what it is for.”
Of all the students who responded to this survey, 50% answered that they were not sure if homophobia is a problem at REV, 21.4% answered that it is not, while 28.6% answered that homophobia is a problem at REV.
Many of these students expressed distrust toward the administrators and felt that they needed to take more action. Homophobia is rampaging at REV and few of the participants are facing the consequences of their actions.
The fact that the camera system in the Performing Arts wing was not changed after it failed to catch the identity of the thieves, who robbed the band room two years prior is unacceptable. This is precisely the reason why the individuals who vandalized the Performing Arts wing have not been caught.
Security needs to be more diligent, punishments need to be enforced, participants need to be caught, and students need to be aware of the discrimination on campus as well as the consequences of bullying.
The safety of LGBTQ+ students at REV is being threatened and their cries are not being answered, very little is being done to ensure their safety or prevent any further incidents. Students are being mocked, threatened, and terrorized daily on campus, losing their faith in staff due to their idleness. The lack of action from the administration and poor safety measures such as the security camera system all contribute to why homophobia is a problem on campus. This problem needs to be solved.
Change needs to come, it needs to come from the actions of the staff who are supposed to protect the students. It also needs to come from the students who can either speak out or change their behavior for the better.
If you are an LGBTQ+ student who has been bullied at REV, you are not alone. You are worthy, you are valid, and you are loved. It is important to speak out about your experiences to make a difference. All it takes is one voice, one tune, to start a symphony of change.