School addresses online slur usage

Kaitlin Musante

In light of reports of a racist, homophobic and anti-semitic comment left by a member of the school community on a gaming site, the school has launched an investigation to find the offender.

Students brought the incident to the administration’s attention, reporting that a classmate had used offensive language toward others in a chatroom on Twitch, a video streaming platform.

“WE ARE THE KLU KLUX KLAN AND WE HATE NI***ERS FA***OTS AND JEWSS,” the user, who entered the site under the username hyphonixkillstrihards, wrote. The user slightly altered the spelling of the words. If spelled correctly, the words would have been blocked by the site due to restrictions placed by Twitch’s moderation settings.

Although the school has taken steps to find the person responsible, the administration is currently unable to find the culprit, as the account was created under a fake name and the site is unwilling to release private information, Director of Student Affairs Jordan Church said.

The investigation is still open, however, and if caught, the alleged student will go before the Honor Board.

“In some ways, you reach these dead ends with anonymous online cyber incidents,” Church said. “However, we still would very much like to know who this individual is and we would like to address [the issue] because that is not behavior that we want to see in our school.”

The incident also sparked discussion among administrators about potentially blocking websites from student use in attempt to prevent further issues, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Janine Jones (Taylor ‘18, Avery ‘23) said.

“As it stands, we don’t block or censor any websites here on campus,” Jones said. “[Blocking the websites] makes it challenging because we don’t want to get into a space of regulating kids in that way and not giving them the freedom to be able to make good choices and good decisions in those spaces.”

Head of School Laura Ross addressed the incident to the junior and sophomore classes during class meeting in order to help the student body understand that they are always held accountable for the language they use.

“I was just trying to help them connect that it doesn’t matter the format,” Ross said. “When you agree to become a part of this community, the [actions you are accountable for] don’t just have to happen on campus, it’s all connected.”

She also encouraged the classes to stand up to peers who use discriminatory words and praised the students in the chat for their reaction.

“I’m so proud of the other boys who were in there who said, ‘this is not cool,’ stopped and shut it down and then told an adult,” Ross said. “They did exactly what I would hope.”

This incident follows reports of a private social media post that included the repeated use of the n-word and homophobic slurs last February, which sparked conversations about diversity on campus.

Despite the increased focus on creating a community that does not promote the use of such language, many students, including Gender and Sexuality Awareness club leader Daniel Varela ’18, said that the incident did not come as a shock.

“I’m not surprised at all to hear an incident like this happening once again from a Harvard-Westlake student,” Varela said. “We may think we are well educated individuals, but in reality, a larger portion of our community is very ignorant, unaware and inexperienced when it comes to being respectful and mature [about topics such as race and sexuality.]”

Affinity groups across campus have taken initiative to respond to the usage of such language and educate students through meetings and videos, Black Leadership Awareness and Culture Club leader Taylor Redmond ’18 said.

She also recognized the school’s attempts to end the usage of offensive language within the community, but said that she feels that the administration must continue their efforts and highlight the root of the problem in order to fully educate the student body.

“I think the school has done a good job so far, but there’s always more that can be done,” Redmond said. “The more we shy away from important conversations, the more unfortunate events like these happen. We need to continue to educate our students about why certain words are not used, not just tell them not to say it.”