As DC area schools deal with racist behavior, Anne Arundel Co. moves for written apologies

A bathroom at Wilson High School in D.C. was found vandalized with hate symbols and speech scrawled on the walls on Wednesday afternoon in a pattern of behavior that has grown all too familiar at schools in the D.C. region.

In a note sent home by the principal, the incident is described as the latest involving hate symbols and speech found at the school and the surrounding neighborhood.

But Wilson High School isn’t the only school seeing an uptick in these types of incidents.

In Anne Arundel County, Maryland, students at Northeast High School were seen on video saying the words “we hate” and then using a racial epithet.

That was followed by an incident involving a student at Severna Park High School that also left students and school leaders concerned.

One student who spoke out and demanded the Board of Education say something at its most recent meeting back on Wednesday and asked the board to address an issue he described as “woven … into the fabric of this county.”

Drake Smith, a student at Meade High School, is also the leader of the Anne Arundel County NAACP youth and college division. He said the county hasn’t done enough about racial bias exhibited by students inside the schools.

“Anne Arundel County has a problem with race,” Smith said. “A problem that we have allowed to fester like an untreated wound.”

He asked the board to demand that the Northeast High School students captured making racist comments on video apologize for their words, saying a suspension didn’t do enough.

“An apology will reinforce the fact that every decision you make has a consequence, whether positive or negative, and you must be prepared to face it,” said Smith.

After he was done speaking, the school system superintendent George Arlotto complimented Smith for his speech and expressed his sympathy for the situation. From there he went over with the board what the current penalties are for such behavior.

Students caught violating the county’s code of conduct by expressing hateful and racist sentiments are required to take a seven-part class aimed at addressing the situation. A student’s parents are required to be there for the first class too.

But an apology wasn’t part of the class.

Near the end Smith looked right in the camera to address the students caught on video.

“We just want an apology,” Smith said. “Because your words, they carry weight. And an apology can carry even more weight.”

And as Smith kept pressing members of the school board to respond to what he said, board member Eric Grannon spoke up.

“I’m giving up an evening with my nine-year-old and my five-year-old. I am not satisfied to influence, I’m here to act and change,” Grannon said. “And I move right now that that class include a written apology as part of the remediation.”

As applause broke out one board member seconded the motion. Candace Antwine seconded it again after the applause from the audience died down.

“Any student who takes the bias related class as part of discipline for a bias related incident, as part of the successful completion of that class must complete a written apology,” is how Grannon phrased his spur of the moment motion.

It passed 8-0, with a ninth member not in attendance.

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