In light of ongoing and recent incidents of racism at Forest Grove High School, a large group of students and their supporters staged a walkout yesterday to confront school administration and ask that their concerns be addressed. We commend the students on their peaceful and organized protest, in which both students and administrators were given the opportunity to address the crowd that gathered at the district offices.
Adelante Mujeres supports these students in their efforts to take a stand against racism and bigotry. We believe that every student has a right to feel supported, safe, and respected in his or her school environment. However, it has become clear that many students have felt targeted by discriminatory speech and behavior from their peers, be it in the form of racial slurs, direct comments regarding language and heritage, or banners hung at the high school.
Student groups have made several attempts to address this matter, including discussions with school and district administrators and the school board. The students felt the need to stage the walk out when they did not see clear action from the administration after these discussions and the racism seemed to escalate. We stand behind the students’ decision to organize and demonstrate.
“What has been happening in the school this year is something that has existed for years and it was simply time for the students to take the situation into their own hands,” said Forest Grove High School Junior Bianca Bermejo. “I'm incredibly happy with how our student body is making efforts to keep the flames going.”
Students from neighboring school districts, university student groups, and local organizations, including Adelante Mujeres, joined these students in a show of solidarity.
Diana Cervantes, a junior at Hillsboro High School is proud that she was able to walk among a crowd of supporters and help to make a change. “It’s amazing how when we all rise up together we can make a difference in our community,” she said.
We hope that the Forest Grove School District will take immediate action to address the divisive and racist climate occurring in our schools and create an open dialogue with students to develop a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for all students.
As an organization that has served Latinos in our community for over 14 years, we welcome the opportunity to be a part of this discussion and to assist school administration as they create a plan of action to address students’ concerns. To accomplish this work, we recommend that the administration involve existing District leaders, including faculty, counselors, principals and students who have demonstrated a commitment to equity and inclusion. By so doing the administration will model the respect and transparency students are requesting.
We have worked closely with the Forest Grove School District in conjunction with our Chicas Youth Development Program, an after-school program that empowers Latina girls to develop their leadership potential, adopt healthy lifestyles, develop cultural identity, and achieve academic success. Students and parents in our Chicas program have expressed their pain and discomfort in response to these incidents, and parents of our Chicas students have reached out to the district in the past to share these concerns.
At Adelante Mujeres, we believe that a strong community requires the inclusion of everyone, and we will work to support both students and administrators as they work to create a school environment in which all students can thrive.