Update: Hate Speech and Next Steps

On Thursday, Oct. 21, the Cleveland administration responded to an incident of racist hate speech with the promise of an investigation. As is detailed in the Clarion article “Administration Investigating Incident of Hate Speech”, “The ‘N’ word was spelled out in large letters on a cafeteria post. When the staff discovered it, it was documented, removed, and reported.” In the weeks since, there has been relative radio silence towards the student body. While we at the Clarion acknowledge the confidentiality of official administrative investigations, we feel that the utmost level of transparency towards students and staff should be upheld, especially when it comes to scenarios that affect people with such extremity.

In response to the administrative silence, Principal JoAnn Wadkins explained to the Clarion that students have not received an update as no new information has been found. If a perpetrator is found, full anonymity will be upheld, and their name would not be revealed. The individual would participate in an official restorative justice process at both a Cleveland and district level to repair harm.

Whether or not a perpetrator is found, the school will work towards further involvement of student, staff, and parent equity groups. Principal Wadkins also urges individuals to take it upon themselves to take the initiative to learn about race, as it is not the obligation of students of color to teach us. The continuous process of unlearning racism must be built into our daily lives, including in our education system.

After the incident, some Cleveland staff members chose not to hold class discussions or publicly condemn the hate speech in their classes; Principal Wadkins reasoned that discussions around race, when done incorrectly, “can perpetuate harm.” It is imperative that we bring discussions about race into our classrooms with thoughtfulness and education.

This incident is the most recent installment in a long pattern of anti-blackness and racism at Cleveland. As administration addresses the harm, Principal Wadkins also stresses the importance of school discussions about race including celebrations of marginalized communities, and not only recognizing students of color in instances of oppression and trauma.