District may intervene in incidents outside of school


A video recently circulated among the community depicting students using racially-insensitive language. According to the GBN Student-Parent Handbook, the school is allowed to become involved with any incident that relates to the school, threatens the safety of students or staff, or disrupts the academic environment. Photo Illustration by Richard Chu.

Grace Chatas, Editor-in-Chief

When sophomore Sofia Thompson opened Snapchat, she was faced with a video that had been posted to another student’s public Snapchat story on Sunday, Dec. 9. The clip featured three sophomore students, two of whom casually addressed the camera using racial slurs and profanity, while the other student responded with laughter. The video was not created on school grounds and did not appear to have a direct target.

Although Thompson was upset by the video, she was not surprised by its contents. Thompson herself had been the target of racist comments from other students during her freshman year.

“I think that [student use of racial slurs] just doesn’t get noticed or goes unreported, and I think it’s more common than one person might think it is,” Thompson said.

Following the incident, an email signed by Glenbrook North Principal John Finan and Glenbrook South Principal Lauren S. Fagel was sent to the student body on Dec. 10 informing it about an investigation by the Northbrook and Glenview Police Departments as a result of the video.

Dean of Students William Eike declined to comment on the video, stating in an email that the school is “still working with Glenbrook South and other agencies to deal with discipline and other issues that may affect some of the students involved.”

Finan said although there is little the school can do to limit the circulation of content, such as the Snapchat video, depending on the content being distributed, the Northbrook Police could potentially become involved.

According to the GBN Student-Parent Handbook, “with respect to activities or events at other locations, if the administration determines that [an] incident bears a nexus (i.e. impact or connection) to the school, safety at school, or is disruptive to the educational environment,” the district still has jurisdiction. A Major Disciplinary Review Committee, also known as an MDRC, will evaluate the severity of an infraction to determine if a violation of school policy has occurred, ensure due processes, compile documentation pertinent to the case and determine an appropriate disciplinary measure. The MDRC is “comprised of a Dean of Students, a social worker and/or counselor who is not the assigned counselor to the student facing discipline, a school psychologist, the Director of Special Education, and other staff members as assigned on a case by case basis by the principal.” Disciplinary actions for incidents of bullying, hazing or harassment may include suspension or expulsion of students involved.

In response to the video, some students have taken steps to educate others on the repercussions of using racist language. On VSCO, a photo sharing app, Thompson posted an “N-word Help Sheet” describing the reasons why people should omit racial slurs from their vocabularies. Junior Rujuta Pandit posted the same sheet to Instagram. Both said they received positive feedback on these platforms from other students.

Pandit said although the contents of the video were offensive, she thinks the incident offers an opportunity for students and teachers to have conversations about the use of racial slurs and to confront issues of racism.

“[The video] isn’t an isolated incident, this is just one that happened to be caught on camera.

“This is the first time we’ve seen it posted, but it’s probably part of a bigger issue of racism and … just the way we respond to people who aren’t as represented in the community,” Pandit said.

GBN held listening sessions for students on Dec. 18 and 19 and similar sessions for staff on Dec. 20 to respond to student and staff concerns. According to Finan, the goal of the listening sessions was to reinforce that the school administration is constantly attending to concerns and trying to make the school community better for everyone by considering the suggestions for potential changes.

“We want everyone to feel comfortable at all times in this school, and if someone does not feel comfortable, that’s a problem.

“[The information gathered from the listening sessions] might result in future All School Workshop themes,” said Finan. “It might result in professional development activities for teachers. It might result in guest speakers or presentations with our parent association. It might result in academic departments addressing the issues of race in their curriculum.”

Although Thompson said she believes the administration has done as much as it can to respond to the video, she is trying to push for awareness for these kinds of issues and community efforts to combat racism.

“I think knowing the power of your words can have is something that can help educate people and prevent things like this in the future.

“I know that [for] me personally, I’m pushing to get something done,” said Thompson. “I’m trying to start a club or start some sort of awareness, something that can be done during Black History Month just because I’m mad. I don’t want things like this to be happening in our community.”

Finan said, “We’re all very proud of our schools, … and students, staff [and] teachers all take great pride in the things that we think we stand for. Some individual action that would indicate that that’s not what we stand for, I think is hurtful and it has a negative impact for everyone. I think our responsibility is to do the things we do but also to have an awareness for what is happening in the community, and to respond to it and to continue to educate our students and staff and parents.”