The Bay Area Experience
"High achievement, high risk"
“The school system as a whole failed me.” Who are students to turn to when their own teachers fail to support them?
"Who are students to turn to when their own teachers fail to support them?"
The San Francisco Bay Area is filled with schools, both private and public, that are ranked in the nation’s Top 100 year after year. An area characterized by high costs and relative wealth, with the average house in the Fremont Union High School District costing well over one million dollars, teachers are paid far above the national average. According to the National Education Association, the average teacher salary in California was around $46 thousand dollars in the 2017-2018 year. 2018 data from Transparent California shows that most teachers in Santa Clara County, within the Bay Area, make six figures. Top paid Bay Area teachers make nearly $200k, over four times the statewide average.
Top tier salaries attract top tier teachers, which should indicate the best school experience possible. One district’s 2018-19 Annual Report states just this, placing one of their primary budget priorities as maintaining competitive teacher salaries in order to keep up the state of education offered. These results are seen in high average SAT scores and alumni at top colleges, but regardless of academic achievement, students report an environment that allows for racial inequity to flourish. These incredible annual reports do not guarantee an equitable or even safe education for Bay Area students.
The quote at this article’s start is from a black student, who reported use of the n-word by nonblack students on multiple occasions. Bay Area Uncovered has received numerous reports of n-word usage being commonplace in the Bay Area, to the extent where students don’t think twice. Jewish students reported being told that they “belong in the oven,” to “throw them back in the furnace where they belong.” Schools cannot control their student’s speech, but they can control their actions.
If the school administration hears about these actions, one would hope that they take appropriate action to address racist students. That same student told us that though they reported each instance to their teacher, no disciplinary action was taken. A Jewish public school student told us that after reporting antisemitic comments, they did not hear back from the administration. Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, was threatened with expulsion after her harasser claimed innocence.
If the school administration is not disciplining its racist students, one would hope that these students are at least being educated. Racial sensitivity training in one student leadership class was undercut by joking racist comments, including the anti-Asian slur “chink” as reported by an Asian public school student. They explained the negative effect of these comments, made by high-ranking student leadership, going unaddressed by those in charge of the seminar. Other schools have ignored the issue completely, not issuing statements or creating training programs.
"Administrations failed to hold these teachers accountable, some claiming that they were a product of their era and could not learn new standards."
If the school administration is not taking action towards its students, one would hope that they are addressing these issues to their teachers and administrators. On the contrary, an anonymous public school student reported that a history teacher said the n-word with no repercussions. Another teacher called black students “lazy and cheaters,” a private school student reported. “He wouldn’t allow them [black students] to sit next to Asians on tests lest they cheat off them.” Administrations failed to hold these teachers accountable, some claiming that they were a product of their era and could not learn new standards. “In my opinion, if you can’t learn, you shouldn’t be teaching,” another local student said after witnessing intense discrimination at the hands of teachers.
Clearly, despite the copious funding and impressive record that these schools produce, systemic racism still exists in the Bay. For administrators to improve their standards and take necessary action, their policies must support it.
Private schools, who are not held to the same policies as public schools, often function off of contracts detailing their disciplinary programs. One school’s contract contains two pages detailing step by step measures to take against plagiarism policy offenders but does not contain the word discrimination once within its 20 pages. Revisions to contracts like these that create standards for dealing with racism and discrimination would send the message that this school does not stand for racism--a message they have posted on their social media but have yet to change their policies to reflect.
Public schools, however, should legally be held to state anti-discrimination standards. Just as they are held to a certain standard of achievement in test scores and graduation rates, they must be held to a standard of action anti-racism. District oversight throughout the county has meant that these policies are not focused on and enforced to their full extent. Pressure from constituents, whether that be parents, students, or district residents, will force administrators to take this issue seriously. We are working to compile reports to bring to district and county boards.
Submit your message at tinyurl.com/bayareauncovered and, to get involved and have access to Bay Area Uncovered resources, reach out through the Contact Us form on this website. Together, we can make change.