The Reporter (Vacaville)
JOHN KNIGHT STUDENTS AND STAFF RALLY AGAINST RACISM, `OTHERNESS'
Love isn't only about romance, but also a general caring for all people.
Such was the affection students and staff at John Knight Middle School in Dixon emphasized on Valentine's Day, participating in a peaceful protest against racism, homophobia and anything else that makes anyone feel less than.
Spirits soared as chill winds whipped around those gathered in front of the campus prior to the 8:30 a.m. start to school. Upbeat music embraced the crowd and passing motorists honked in support.
“We just wanted to finally take a stand against something that's been pervasive for years,” said Sheila Herd, who teaches math and leadership at John Knight. Acknowledging Valentine's Day, she said the event was all about love. “A cross section of our students and staff, we've just had enough. Every single person at this school deserves respect.”
She pointed out underlying notes of discrimination against those of different ethnicities, who have nontraditional gender identities, who love differently, who are made to feel “other.”
John Knight is an amazing school with amazing people, Herd continued, and everyone has come together in that spirit.
The event was a response to a case of racism at the school earlier this month. It involved a seventh-grade boy who posted a collage of photos of Black and biracial students and the school's Black principal with a header mentioning Black History Month and including a racial epithet.
Dixon Unified School District Superintendent Brian Dolan has called the Instagram post “the most disgusting, disturbing, really hateful thing I've ever seen.”
An investigation is ongoing and the involved student has not returned to school. Victims in the matter are still being identified, as are any other possible suspects. Full disciplinary action will be taken, Dolan said, and more training and other resources will be provided to staff district-wide..
“We've done some things but we haven't done nearly enough,” he advised at the time. “The core of change here is really about justice and equity and decency.”
Meanwhile at the school, students waved colorful signs that proclaimed messages such as:
• Love Everyone
• Together we are strong
• Everyone is welcome here, and
• Everyone deserves love. Sixth grader Isabella Wasser
was concerned that not everyone feels like an equal.
“People think that white people are more powerful, but everyone is also the same and everyone is also different,” she said.
Sixth grader Finn Saucedo agreed.
“I don't really like the fact that people are discriminating against other people,” the youth expounded. “It's not okay. Everybody belongs and everybody matters.”
Seventh grader Isabela Escobar seconded the sentiment.
“I know that everyone deserves to be equal, as we all are,” she said. “And it doesn't matter who we love as long as we love.”
Language Arts teacher Robert Stoces also participated in the gathering, saying he was called to do so.
“It just means supporting my students. That's what I'm here to do,” he advised.
Stoces said he wants his students to feel comfortable in his class and at school in general, to know they're safe, that they're always welcome wherever they are.
“I'm hoping at the very least that they see me here to support them,” he said.
Seventh grader Christopher Guera was at the protest in support of a friend. She was one of the students pictured in the racist collage, he said, and she was wounded by it.
Apparently none of those photographed knew what the pictures would be used for.
“It feels wrong,” Christopher said, of the intent of the collage, adding that it hurt a lot of people including his friend, who was not with him at the event. “I just feel bad for her and I support her.”