EDI Committee Hosts Roundtable Conversation on Derogatory Language

Amish Jha, Staff Writer

A student at Arcadia High School (AHS) wrote a racial slur in the cafeteria on the lunch menu on Jan. 30. They erased the word nuggets off of “chicken nuggets” and added a racial slur targeted towards African Americans. Over 90% of the staff in the cafeteria are people of color, and this incident sparked sadness, discomfort, and a negative work environment for the weeks to come. 

“I have to say I was very shocked. Our words and actions have meaning behind it; language is such a powerful thing,” said Cafeteria Staff Mrs. Courtney Grimes, to Apache News, with tears in her eyes. 

Mrs. Grimes also mentioned that the saddest and most heartbreaking aspect of this event was the lack of sensibility from other students. Many students in the cafeteria that day must have seen the slur written, yet no student in these past few months has come out or said anything. AHS Principal Dr. Angie Dillman and Mrs. Grimes are calling on students to come tell them who did this; someone must know. 

“She [Mrs. Grimes] feels so isolated, and we are doing everything we can to help, and to not let this be pushed under the rug,” said Dr. Dillman.

To try to make the work environment for the cafeteria staff a bit better, and have everyone feel safer and at home as they should be at an Arcadia Unified school, the Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee advisor and Assistant Principal Ms. Michelle Lew, held an event called “Connecting through Conversations” on Mar. 15. This event was a roundtable discussion, like several that EDI has held in the past. 

Superintendent Dr. David Vannasdall, Dr. Dillman, Assistant Principal Mr. Keith Kerney, Ms. Lew, and other administrators across the district came, as well as members of the student body at AHS. The purpose of this event was to have an open discussion about how students at Arcadia feel about racism, what they have experienced, and if they feel like Arcadia has enough resources for them to get adequate support. 

Each table of students had one administrator with them, and their conversations got deep. They shared their own personal experiences, and how they feel this has turned into a bigger issue in the past few years. Ms. Lew spoke about her personal experience becoming an administrator in California.

“People always asked me where I’m really from, or why I am going into this field as a woman,” said Ms. Lew.

“A lot of what I’m hearing is that kids say these incredibly hurtful and racist things, but it is played off as a joke. Since your friends are the ones saying these hurtful things, students tend to think it is accepted, but it is not,” said Dr. Vannasdall. 

This event went on for around 40 minutes, with administrators and students sharing their experiences and thoughts out loud to the whole room. At the end, everyone walked away with smiles. This event genuinely connected everyone through conversations; students were able to see that the administration empathizes and relates to what they are going through, and they are here to help. Students said events like these should be held more often, as they provide genuine help for the student body at AHS. 

Photos by AMISH JHA