At Tuesday’s Governing Board meeting, La Cañada Unified School District officials sought to assure community members that they are committed to instilling respect and tolerance and that they won’t tolerate racist student behavior, such as what was alleged by Pasadena Blair High School boys’ basketball players.
Members of the Blair team, which is predominantly black, said students in the stands directed several racial slurs at them during a Jan. 11 game at La Cañada High School.
Since then, LCUSD has enacted a “multi-pronged approach” in response to the incident, according to Mary Hazlett, LCHS’ assistant principal who oversees activities, athletics and discipline.
“The La Cañada Unified School District administration, staff and Governing Board will not tolerate the types of behaviors that were alleged,” Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said. “I wanted to let you know that [LCHS Principal Ian McFeat] went and met personally with the Blair principal in efforts to repair any damage to the relationship and make sure that the adults involved were united in their approach going forward.”
Sinnette said administrators at the high school investigated the incident and took “appropriate actions.” She also said the district will be reaching out to groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and furthering its relationship with programs such as Stanford’s Challenge Success, the Search Institute and the Positive Coaching Alliance, all in an effort to “ensure that our students’ education is firmly grounded in tolerance and kindness.”
In addition to moving the student-fan section, Hazlett told board members that administrators have prohibited some students from attending games and that there had been conversations with students and families based on actions that administrators were able to confirm.
She said she’s also in the process of booking a pair of consultants to speak to LCHS students and personnel about how to institute positive fan behavior and also about fostering social-emotional student support.
And Hazlett suggested that the school might do more around future Martin Luther King Jr. holidays to encourage kindness.
“We’ve had conversations about what could be done to improve the athletic experience for everyone involved,” Hazlett said. “And we have made a concerted effort to communicate with those students who have felt that their way to best support the teams they care about is to distract the opponent. They cite colleges like Duke University that are famous for this.”
But that’s not what LCHS administrators want, Hazlett said.
In an effort to change students’ perspective, she said she has started taking groups — including those who participate in the “Splash Zone” student cheering section, ASB members and pep squad members — to other campuses, such as Glendale and Los Alamitos high schools, where student-fans are known for their positive support of their sports programs.
In a related matter, Sinnette also spoke Tuesday about state Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s recent release urging all California public schools to continue their “Safe Haven” efforts “for students and their families, particularly Muslims and refugees targeted by recent federal actions.”
Sinnette said the Governing Board “will consider” adopting such a resolution, but that the district stands by what board member David Sagal, then the board president, said in December about the district’s policy for protecting the rights of students, staff and families within the district.
“We should all have faith in the strength of our institutions that ultimately guide us to the correct course of action in ensuring the elimination of discrimination and harassment on our campuses,” Sagal said then. “Despite emotional rhetoric or changes in our political climate, or dramatic shifts in any one or more branches of our government, we can all have faith that our many-layered institutions will preserve a safe environment in our schools, one that promotes tolerance and sensitivity.”
On Tuesday, Sinnette said that commitment includes educating students about those values.
“We all hold dear our district,” Sinnette said. “And I assure you that the LCHS school culture reflects attitudes of students who have good and strong characters. We have full confidence in our student body, but it’s the responsibility of the adults and the educators to be vigilant in assuring that in their formative years, we instill value-based social-emotional education.
“With our national climate so contentious with discriminatory attitudes and actions seemingly condoned by some in the political area, we take very seriously our charge to ensure that the youths at our high school are educated and equipped with appropriate social and emotional learning so that they will model acceptance, inclusion and appreciation of diversity.”