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Banning Lewis Preparatory Academy students walkout in protest of racial slurs

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Posted at 12:09 PM, Feb 28, 2022

FALCON — More than 20 students at Banning Lewis Preparatory Academy walked out of class Monday morning in protest of racism at the school.

The protest was organized by eighth-graders Meron Hoffman, Tayla Gale, and Leilani Michel.

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"We started this after it took them over two weeks to deal with a racial incident that happened with a student at our school," said Hoffman.

"As well as multiple other incidents before that they didn't do anything about. Everything was kinda pushed under the rug, nothing was really done about what was going on," said Michel.

The girls say they have experienced racism while attending school.

"A few months ago, a kid came up to me and called me and Tayla the N-word. When I reported it, I ended up apologizing because he told the school that we were leaving him out. He was let off with a warning, told not to say it again," said Michel.

"Last year, I was called the N-word by an older kid going up the stairs that I never met before. He had punishment for one day but he didn't have remorse," said Hoffman. "The kids find out (about reporting), and are mad at us later."

The girls decided to plan the protest to help bring attention to the issue, and push for more transparency.

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"I want something to be done sooner. When something happens, I want it to be addressed sooner," said Michel.

"It should be seen as a real issue, it's never been treated as a real issue," said Gale.

About ten parents, including theirs, were at the protest to show them support.

"This is 100 percent the kids' idea. I came home from work on Friday. My daughter was like hey dad we're going to do this and I'm behind you 100 percent," said Dimitri Michel, Banning Lewis Preparatory Academy parent.

Dimitri says the racial incidents are having a profound impact on his daughter.

"She gets really emotional, she and her friends feel like they're terrorized when they're at school. She gets so angry, she gets teary-eyed because she doesn't understand why the kids are being like that," said Dimitri.

"I pick her up every day after school, and the last two weeks you can see the stress on her face. It's bothered her, for her friends to be over on a Saturday night and to be talking about it over dinner, it's clearly impacting her and her friends," said Tymm Hoffman. "For my daughter who's been at Banning since the first grade, she's experienced it every year and it's been a wide range of things. Whether it's a microaggression or straight up being called the N-word where I've had to file police reports for hate. The problem is we never know how it's handled.

Administrators sent the following letter to parents in response to student concerns.

Dear 8th-grade parents,

We seek your continued partnership as we work through addressing issues and concerns that have been arising among the 8th Grade student body. At BLPA we promote a safe and inclusive environment where students and staff LEAD (Live Safely, Engage with Respect, Act with Kindness, Demonstrate Responsibility) the Herd by exhibiting these core characteristics.

Recent reports center around racial comments and/or microaggressions. Each report is investigated and disciplinary and/or restorative actions are applied depending on the circumstances. Due to privacy requirements, we are unable to inform all parties involved of the applied disciplinary actions. We are aware that some situations are occurring outside of school. We use discretion regarding the level of intervention we can provide in those situations and if they impact the school environment.

On Monday, February 28th, BLPA Administration and Counseling will address all 8th-grade classes to educate and clarify that any comments that are racist or microaggressions (and any other form of discrimination or derogation) will not be tolerated. We will further clarify the process for reporting these instances and how they may be addressed. Please know that we do take these situations seriously and apply consequences accordingly while educating our students on the value of respecting each other.

We seek your partnership in educating and having conversations with your students about how any type of discrimination is completely unacceptable. If you wish to research microaggressions and discuss with your student, we welcome you to do so. In summary, a microaggression is subtle and not necessarily intentional, but CAN be perceived as racist (or discriminatory toward any person or group). When these situations occur, students are coached from the standpoint of; if a comment or action may be perceived as racist or derogatory, then do not say or do it. We also share with students that they are welcome to seek counsel from administration or counselors if they need support in working through understanding this topic.

We thank you for your partnership and look forward to LEAD-ing the Herd with students, parents, staff, and the community.

Banning Lewis Preparatory Academy

Banning Lewis Preparatory Academy sent the following statement to News 5 related to the protest.

Hello BLPA Community,

There were a group of students that exercised their First Amendment Right to Free Speech and Protest regarding their concerns around racial injustices and how they are handled at BLPA. Students were in front of the school for approximately one and a half hours and returned to class thereafter.

Below is the statement from the school to the news agency that was on site.

Our students are our primary stakeholders, and we are absolutely interested in hearing what they have to say. We look to our student demonstrators to provide specificity in both identifying and solutioning the issues as they perceive them. As an administration, we have worked to resolve issues as they relate to our school and campus within the jurisdiction we feel that we have. We open ourselves to learning the viewpoint of this subset of students with the intention of becoming a closer community.

We applaud the approach the students choosing to participate in this demonstration have taken to protest in peace. Their ability to demonstrate without disrupting the learning environment is a model of success. We recognize these individuals are taking a risk today, and we welcome our students to take that kind of initiative and explore themes of activism, voice, and empowerment within the safety of our school environment.

As a public school, we are required to follow rules around attendance and the instructional minutes missed by participants today. Our goal moving forward, and always, is to provide opportunities for students to express their concerns and ideas in an array of options such as student government, open door meeting policies, or other alternatives.
Banning Lewis Preparatory Academy