State High Responds to Hate Speech Through Education and Discussion


Sydnee Rockey

Rija Sabeeh, junior and Peer Advocate, starts the forum off with an opening statement. Sabeeh let students who were there know what they were going to be doing while they were there and how the forum would run. Also pictured in the photo is an agenda, laying out the forum, making it easy for students to understand what would be happening throughout.

Sydnee Rockey, Staff Writer

This school year there has been an increased number of incidents of bias reported to staff and groups in the school. Over the past two months, there have been three major incidents reported involving race, and a few of them involved people using the N-Word. The school responded by sending out multiple emails, saying that the school does not tolerate any of the words said or actions made by students. Some students, however, felt as if the emails were not enough. A group of students in the school, who are members of the Peer Advocacy program at State High and Delta, decided they would hold a forum to inform students while also providing a space to discuss the issues presented. The forum took place during English classes on Monday, December 16. All English classes were required to go. 


The central topic of the forum on Monday was the N-Word. The forum opened with a group of Peer Advocates presenting a slideshow about what the N-Word is and the history behind it. They made sure to emphasize that it was created by white people to show ownership over their slaves, and it was often used in everyday slang. “I think education is the foundation of everything else, because if you don’t have that solid foundation then obviously you’re not going to know how to discuss that topic,” said Rija Sabeeh, a sophomore and Peer Advocate at State High. 


The Peer Advocates also explained that there has been a recent spike in the use of the word, as seen in the amount of incidents reported to the REACT response team and Safe2Say. They also showed a video from Buzzfeed called “What The N-Word Feels Like.” The video was used to inform students of what it feels like to be called the derogatory term. It laid a foundation for further discussion. Multiple classes were gathered in the Cafeteria LGI for the forum, and everyone (regardless of the class they were from) was split up into nine separate groups. Each group had at least one facilitator, who lead the discussion by prompting questions related to the topic throughout each discussion. 


“Honestly, I think we need action to be taking place,” Sabeeh said. “I think the first way to take action is through conversation and discussion.” Sabeeh was one of the students who initially came up with the idea for a school-wide forum around the incidents reported over the past few months. She also facilitated the forum and presented information at the beginning of the block to help students understand why they were there. “I hope [people left the forum with a new understanding], but there isn’t a sure way to tell.” As for whether or not the conversations and forums would continue, Sabeeh expressed an interest in having more forums. “I think it depends on what we need. We haven’t started anything yet… but it’s something I am interested in doing and continuing.” 


Not all English classes have attended the forum, but as the year continues each class will be attending. This will ensure that the student population is educated on issues affecting fellow students and the school climate.