Trophies and plaques line the cafeteria walls. Brand new, shiny cars dot the parking lots, putting old, hand-me-down cars from parents to shame. Flags are proudly strewn about representing all the countries of origin of foreign exchange students who called Edwardsville home for a year. This is Edwardsville High School, known for all its great accomplishments.
That’s all the news picked up, until November of last year, and the scratch in the school’s formerly spotless image speaks volumes about how the school has operated the past couple years.
For once, some eyebrows were raised within the public sphere when a video of kids fighting surfaced, tracing back to racist social media posts. As an alumna, I knew shit was serious when precious after-school activities were canceled. Physical fighting was not very common at EHS, but honestly, it didn’t surprise me. I don’t condone violence, but after what I’ve heard surrounding what led to the incident and what I witnessed as a student at EHS years before, I don’t blame those targeted for throwing punches. It was the only way for them to be heard.
In response, EHS took to Facebook to post what was read in place of the morning announcements the following day. The message was long and covered a lot of bases. However, there was one critical piece missing: an apology from administration, teachers and staff for how they themselves perpetuated harmful messages and for allowing students to get away with racist behaviors.
The school should have learned to be transparent then. What happened to the truck with the “racist epithet painted on the side” and its driver? Did he face any repercussions? I understand there are many privacy laws regarding releasing information on students, but at the very least, the school should have made it clear whether or not they took disciplinary action. As of now, the public is left to assume the student got away with it. This is just one piece of the puzzle. The announcement said “The N-word has no home at EHS!” Well, was that told to the white English teacher who, when reading “Huckleberry Finn,” told a class of majority white students that we could say the ‘N-word’ when reading if we were comfortable doing so a few short years earlier? What is being done?
Yes, task forces and “listening circles,” are great and show effort, but clearly they haven’t solved major problems. Otherwise, we would be publicly hearing about what happened to the Instagram troll account with the infamous E-paw logo as its profile picture that made fun of George Floyd’s death (it has since been deleted). The problem is clearly not fixed, and action needs to be taken publicly so others see they cannot get away with these abhorrent behaviors.
I encourage EHS leadership as they’re dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic to not forget racism is a pandemic, too, that also comes with dire repercussions. Steve Stuart was not my principal throughout the four years I spent at EHS, and I hope he does not fall into the same traps as leadership before him. Instead of worrying about keeping up with appearances, take action. Inaction paints the school in a much worse light than being transparent does.