Administration should take more direct action against hateful acts

The school needs to back their student voices up with tangible action

When two McLean students vandalized the school’s rock, painted with messages like “Black Lives Matter” to honor Black History Month, the school seemed to act quickly; it painted over vandals’ work and had a counselor respond through the online learning platform Schoology.

But other than superficial, lackluster reactions, the inaction from the administration left students feeling unsupported by their school. Moving forward, McLean will need to commit to more forceful responses to hateful or discriminatory behavior in school.

No visible direct response came from administration until a week after the incident, when principal Dr. Ellen Reilly sent out an email to parents. From a student’s point of view, it didn’t feel like the administration had properly acknowledged the incident at all.

“I personally didn’t see much action being taken,” said Areeb Jackson, a junior in McLean’s Black Student Union that painted the original messages on the rock. “I wish the administration would talk more about [situations like this] in the future.”

The administration’s immediate response was not very convincing; they had Black Student Union founder Jasmine Andresol speak to the school over the public announcement system in the morning and host an event at the rock afterschool. They also had counselor Amber Simpkins, who is Black, write an official response on behalf of the administration.

“We knew that something public had to be said, and we decided that Jasmine would probably be the best person to make that statement,” Principal Ellen Reilly said. “This is the students’ school. It has to come from the students.”

While intentions may have been genuine, students immediately caught an underlying trend: having Black students and staff cover for an administration that has infamously overlooked egregious discriminatory incidents.

Expecting Black students and staff to somehow shield an administration from its historical inaction was cheap. A high-ranking staff member should’ve at least spoken properly on the public address system that morning; it’s not a student’s job to be the PR crisis response.

“Listening to some people later in the week, they felt like I needed to make a statement [regarding the incident],” Reilly said. “I hadn’t taken it like that. I thought [letting Jasmine speak] was a really good thing. I really never thought I’d have to get out in front of it.”

The administration did take action behind the scenes after some dust settled.

“After we settled down some, I called the Assistant Superintendent of Equity,” Reilly said. “I informed her of what was happening at the school, and I asked that we have a specialist come to our school. She’s been through the school, talking to some kids, and she’s going to give us some feedback on improvements she thinks we can make.”

It’s admirable that the school took definitive action, but a lack of communication made it appear as though the administration had not taken initiative on the rock incident. Faster notifications and updates from officials in charge are important and can help bridge the divide between staff and students.

Hopefully, there will not be a similar incident to this anytime soon. But the lesson is clear—administrators need to communicate quickly and take responsibility, even the topic is difficult.