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Letter From Black Alumni Association Corroborates Racism Allegations at Whitney High

BY BRIAN HEWS • June 8, 2020

Hews Media Group has exclusively obtained a letter from the Whitney High School Black Alumni Association which corroborates the racist online posts of a Whitney student, first reported by HMG on Friday June 5.

The June 5 article, which was supported by a number of Facebooks posts by former Whitney students alleging racism, also found that the racism issues are endemic at the award-winning school located in Cerritos, California, part of the ABC Unified School District.

The letter was addressed to Whitney Principal John Briquelet, Assistant Principal Larry Natividad, ABC Superintendent Dr. Mary Sieu, Director of Schools Dr. Crechena Wise, ABC Board President Dr. Olga Rios, and all ABC School Board members.

The association wrote, “We are writing to you because it has recently come to our attention that there have been multiple incidents of hate speech towards African Americans by members of the Whitney student body over the last week or so.

“As Black alumni of Whitney High School, this news brings us great pain and disappointment, particularly given the similar experiences so many of us had during our time at the school.”

The wording of the letter became increasingly serious, alleging that some Whitney faculty and staff are racists and that it is systematic and aimed at disenfranchising African American students.

“Hearing more stories from Black alumni and current students concerning micro-aggressions and micro-assaults committed by students and faculty, there are several instances of systematic disenfranchisement that have directly impacted the academic achievement, attrition, and graduation rates of African American students at Whitney High School.”

“This seems to not be a few isolated incidents but rather an issue with the school culture that must be changed.”

The Black Alumni not only alleged the racism was embedded in the culture of Whitney, they also asserted that faculty and staff tolerated and offered no help or counseling.

“Many times we struggled to have a safe place to express our feelings and our outrage at racist interactions. We are left to discuss it amongst our small group or maybe seek out someone who we hoped to be an ally amongst the faculty.”

The alumni then proposed a partnership with Whitney and the ABCUSD, “We need to ensure there is accountability for past grievances. However, as a collective-we want to be part of a positive change. Through our partnership, we hope to guide these conversations and use our collective experiences as the super minority at Whitney to provide context for the Black student experience.”

The association then requested the ABCUSD “inform us” on several questions aimed at ascertaining how Whitney is handling discrimination and racism.

The questions included:
1. How often is diversity and inclusion training provided to WHS faculty?
2. What extensive training did the WHS faculty receive in the wake of the mock slavery simulation provided to the 8th grade students?
3. What policies, guidelines, and disciplinary actions are in place for students and/or faculty that utilize social media to spread messages of racism and hate?
4. What discipline did the students receive who were involved in the two recent incidents of hate speech?
5. What steps are WHS taking to make sure their Black students feel supported and protected?
6. What curriculum is implemented and being used to teach Black history and anti-bias curriculum?
7. Why has WHS not come out with a statement on their social media accounts and an email to the student body in direct support of the Black community and denouncing hateful rhetoric and behavior?
8. What is WHS introducing to its curriculum to enrich its students about Black culture?
9. What ongoing analyses of disciplinary action and educational outcome disparities for minority students are being conducted?

The association asserted that they “wanted to be a part of the change.”

“In true Whitney spirit, we want to be difference makers. We would offer the following:

1. Meeting with Principal [John] Briquelet and Dr. [Crechena] Wise to address our concerns.

2. Assist WHS in establishing an Black Alumni group to help support its African American student body.

3. Participation in WHS career day events.

4. Participate in a discussion with the students who engaged in hate speech regarding the lessons they could learn from their actions.

5. Participation in a WHS diversity committee to enhance a culture of acceptance and inclusion.

6. While being sensitive to the experiences of every student, past and present, creating a culture of empathy, equity, and inclusion would benefit every student at Whitney as a whole.

7. Addressing the anti-Black culture at Whitney would also encompass providing a space for equity and inclusion for the Latinx population, as well as students in the LGBTQIA community.”

The letter finished, “Hate speech, discrimination, and prejudice has no place in our society, and certainly no place in our schools. Thank you for allowing us this opportunity to voice our concerns. We look forward to having our questions answered and ensuring that Whitney High School is a safe place for everyone.”

The letter was signed by 24 Whitney alumni, with graduation dates ranging from 1986 to 2019.

Dr. Olga Rios, President of the ABCUSD Board, told HMG, ““I agree that hate speech, discrimination and prejudice have no place in our schools. At ABC we want the best for ALL of our students regardless of race, economic standing, and gender and will continue to work to bring about positive change.”

Former Board President and current Trustee Area 7 Boardmember Chris Apodaca commented, “I’m proud of our students and alumni who have chosen to share these traumatic, evil experiences. Their courage to come forward will serve as a catalyst for change in our schools and community. There is no place in our district for bigotry or discrimination of any kind. It is my hope that the dialogue will continue guided by a mutual understanding and respect. As usual, anyone who needs to speak to their Boardmember can reach me on my personal cell at (714)-244-7368.”