Opinion: Racism On and In the WHS Walls

Sydney Allen '23, Staff Writer

Welcome to Westborough High School where we accept everyone for who they are… unless it goes against our beliefs. Where we are diverse… but not fully comfortable around people. Where we are educated… except on social equality and differences. Where “we rely on the caring relationships between families, friends, and faculty, to support our students” (email from administration May 2021)… but expect them to educate themselves on current problems within the school and country.

The Westborough School District has a tendency of pushing aside problems in schools and covering them up. Westborough prides itself on its public reputation and good media reviews, even gloating about what we have so-called achieved and continue to build on. And yet, there have been many racist incidents relating not only in the Westborough school system but more specifically in the high school. A lot of Westborough residents may not even know of the most recent racist graffiti incident, and if they have, it was through an email sent out by the administration.

Any time there is a situation regarding racism in our school, the principal, Mr. Callaghan sends out a repetitive email diverting the problem into a “learning experience.” There is never an explanation as to what occurred, in fact, the email barely even admits that racism occurs within our school. Rarely do we hear from other administrators and the Westborough School Board, and yet, “at WHS, we continue to promote sensitivity and knowledge about social justice, respect for diversity, and anti-racism.” Who makes up the “we”? How are students learning about social justice in school? How are we learning to respect diversity when nothing is being done about the setbacks we have? How is our school against racism when they are an active enabler?

Mr. Callaghan says, “While I am proud of the efforts accomplished thus far, I know there is more work to be done” (March 2021 email). Our school has made no accomplishments thus far involving racism in our community and educating people on the matter. If administration knows that there is more work to be done, why has nothing been done? Why is no one being held accountable for their actions? Why have we not made any efforts to make our students safe and equal in schools?

There is also no punishment or accountability for the people committing these acts. Mr. Callaghan says things such as “let me be very clear: this goes against our core values at WHS; there is no place for racist acts at WHS or in our society. If the person responsible for this horrible graffiti is identified we will determine appropriate disciplinary consequences, support and learning, and restorative practices. We will both hold the student responsible and help them understand the impact of their actions.”

As far as the public knows, there was no attempt to find the person who wrote the graffiti and it was never said what the graffiti specifically was. What do disciplinary consequences look like? Why would you “support” a person who is making others suffer when you have the ability to hold them accountable for their actions? We were promised action and disappointed once again.

“Tomorrow we will be working with student leaders to organize lunchtime conversations about how we are impacted by incidents like this and what positive actions we can take.” To start off, there was no conversation at lunches and to my knowledge, the most that had been done, was Mr. Callaghan sat at a table in the lobby “available to talk to” if anyone wanted. This shows how unimportant this topic is seen in Westborough. Teachers can’t even take 10 minutes out of their day to talk about a very urgent and harmful matter in our school?

The racist graffiti incident from November 18 was never brought up again after this email was sent out. This school protects its problems and tells the victims that they are the reason this is happening to them. The underlying message tells victims to learn from what they’ve gone through, instead of educating the people causing problems and taking action against them to better our safety and make our community more inclusive.

Victims are not the problem. They should not be the ones getting in trouble or having to watch what they say when they just want the truth told. The school needs to educate its students and hold them accountable for their harsh and inappropriate behavior and actions. The school’s actions thus far have not been informative or helpful in our community’s growth. If anything, it has set us back because no real action has been taken.

The most that has been done in our school is an email sent out; this is the only thing our school continues to do as well. An email, not talking about what happened or how the administration is going to handle it, just that our community is “diverse” and continues to grow because of our students; the same students who are saying these hurtful remarks, the same students who are getting the attention they want without any repercussions.

Just because an email from the principal says how great he thinks our school and community are, does not make up for the fact that the administration’s actions have been undermining and disappointing. The school district has never taken responsibility for any of the problems that dwell in our hallways. They have deflected them onto others and acted like everything was great to cover up for the fact that racism walks our halls every day, maybe sits next to us in class, or is the one teaching the class.

Our school community needs to recognize that racism lives within and on our walls in order for anything to improve. Nothing is going to change unless action is taken by the administration. The first step for progression is admitting and understanding the inactions our administration has not carried through. We, students, need and want to feel safe, welcome, and seen. And in order for this to happen, the community, including the administration, needs to learn from the past racist incidents and not ignore them.