A popular program that compels students to talk openly about racism will be resurrected Friday at , where the community continues to reel from racially-motivated, student-on-student violence.
The latest fights broke out March 30 on the eve of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District spring break, according to Superintendent Sandra Lyon.
Summarizing an email the high school's principal sent to parents, Lyon said Thursday night at a Board of Education meeting that in one of the two recent incidents, a group of girls riding a city bus "engaged in a series of unacceptable behavior, including threats and hate speech." In another, parents told the board that a black student was videotaped getting kicked in the head.
In its earlier incarnations, Racial Harmony was a three-day event that occurred on-and-off throughout the past decade at Samohi. The Santa Monica Daily Press reported earlier this year that the program ended in 2010 when the program's founder, a Santa Monica High School alumnus, was laid off.
This year, however, the retreat will take place over the course of just one day. Superintendent Lyon explained that students have more commitments now than they did 10 years ago, leaving them with less time to participate in the voluntary program.
"People will assess if it’s enough or if more is needed and then we’ll adjust," said board member Oscar de la Torre.
Parents have demanded the return of the program since a black student was allegedly bullied by white wrestling teammates in June 2011. The .
For months—board meeting after board meeting—parents have continued to call on district leaders to change the campus environment so that students are more culturally sensitive.
Those pleas continued Thursday night as the board finalized goals and tasks for a newly reconstituted advisory committee called the Intercultural Equity and Excellence District Advisory Committee. It will focus on closing the so-called achievement gap, serve as liaison between parents and the board and "address issues of intercultural equity and excellence."
"We have a number of things in the works," said Lyon, listing new curriculum, a "leadership and diversity day," and a forum for black students, among others.