A commenter on Lake Oswego High School's Class of 2017 Facebook page suggested seniors "create a club called Ku Klux Klub and find every black kid and sacrifice them," according to the Nov. 8 edition of the student newspaper, and for weeks no one challenged the statement.
"What's worse, the post?" the newspaper asked students, "[O]r the silence that followed?"
Now administrators are grappling with the Nov. 1 discovery of the post, said to have been made by a former student and a separate, earlier incident at the high school, where students were said to have been laughing while photographing a poster in the school cafeteria that depicted Nazi extermination of Jews.
Principal Rollin Dickinson addressed the incidents in a lengthy letter to parents Monday, before President-elect Donald Trump's victory reportedly set off a spate of racist attacks in Oregon schools and elsewhere.
And Superintendent Heather Beck followed-up with her own extensive response:
On Monday, LOHS Principal Rollin Dickinson sent a message to parents that should be required reading for every parent in our school district. It describes, in unflinching detail, two episodes of racist and anti-Semitic behavior that are shocking, inexcusable, and appalling in their nature.
I do not believe that this behavior is representative of our students or our community, but I am concerned that the students who viewed these postings did not challenge them or immediately report them. Nor do I believe this is a phenomenon exclusive to LOHS, but it is representative of our shortcomings as a community in equipping our students with the empathy to embrace tolerance and stand up to injustice, and the tools to recognize and combat an increasingly coarse culture in the world around them.
We have done a lot of work in our schools over the past two years around building positive school culture, but this is work that is never done; this is an effort that requires constant vigilance and attention on the part of all of us. We will continue this work with renewed focus by engaging in small group conversations with students, bringing in speakers, engaging in professional development, and working together as a community to reject hatefulness and recognize insensitivity.
All students should feel welcome and safe in our schools. I want to conclude this message with an apology to all of those who have been hurt by these incidents. We will collectively address this head on, and prove to ourselves and each other that we are better than this. We cannot allow this story to repeat itself in the future.
As Principal Dickinson said, “What’s at stake is more fundamentally important to our students than anything else we will teach them. In this sense, this is, and really must be, a call to action.”
It will take all of us.
Dr. Heather Beck