Principal plays strong leadership role following racial incident

Odi Opole, Web Editor


The thing that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The small consideration that runs through someone’s mind before commenting when an Asian student gets an A. The flickering hesitation that comes before the joke, “Is it because I’m black?”

The topic that’s launched wars and holocausts.

Something we joke about every day.

We have a delicate balance here at BV – a balance that could tip at any moment. Students joke about race freely and openly – let’s not beat around the bush. We may not joke in a malicious way, and we may think that race is no longer an issue, but we have been proven wrong.

Earlier this school year, some BV students pushed the envelope a bit too far. Anthony Buffalomeat of the Lawrence High basketball team was teased about his Native American heritage during a game that, coincidentally, had a Cowboys and Indians theme. After the game, and even now, months away from the incident, it is still being discussed at Blue Valley.

How could they be so insensitive? How could they be so ignorant?

But one question almost nobody asks is, “Is it the students’ fault?”

The answer is no. The percent of minority students currently enrolled at BV is nine. In a school of more than 1,200 students, that’s 123 students, spread out over four grade levels. There is not a real opportunity to be culturally aware unless you know someone who is a minority, or participate in specific groups like the Diversity Club.

Out of all the wonderful things BV has to offer, cultural awareness is not on the list. So when incidents like the basketball game happen, we are left completely unprepared – the Tigers become deer in headlights.

When something like this happens, it becomes very easy to imagine school officials panicking and coming down on the students involved because they think that’s the right thing to do.

Thank God that wasn’t the case.

Principal Scott Bacon has proven to be calm under pressure, which is an invaluable trait at the moment. He is handling the situation with grace and, most importantly, with our best interests at heart. Bacon said he plans to use what was a terrible incident to bring more cultural awareness, and he’s making good on his promise. The diversity assembly will address what happened. Bacon has already spoken to the student body. Letters of apology have been written, and lessons are being planned.

It seems to me that rather than letting guilt or worry for the school’s reputation rule his behavior, Bacon has given real thought to the situation.

Rather than simply punishing the students involved or even going after the whole school, Bacon is teaching us a lesson he feels we haven’t had time to learn.

As one of 27 African American students in the school, and a foreigner to boot, I can’t put into words exactly how good it felt to write that sentence.

It makes me proud to say that although I went to a school where I was certainly the minority, my issues weren’t ignored. It means that a school official I see every day actually cares about what I go through, along with everyone else in the school. It means that I can worry less about how people react to my culture and the cultures of others.

That’s pretty big.

Bacon has stepped up to the challenge of dealing with race in a not-very-diverse school; now it’s our turn.

If someone makes a seriously racist joke, comment (politely) and tell them to stop.

During the Diversity Assembly, we need to open our eyes. Instead of saying, “Wow, that’s a cool dance,” and forgetting about it, really pay attention.

Instead of texting whoever is out sick on Feb. 13, or talking to the person next to you, listen to the speaker.

For that matter, don’t be the one making the joke.

Use what could have become a blemish on BV’s reputation to become a shining example of teens who actually learn from their mistakes.

Race as an issue isn’t going away yet, as sad as it may be to say.

How we respond to this incident and others in our daily lives will greatly affect us later in life.

How you handle and respond to race through comments, behavior and experiences will affect how you interact with people not only in high school, but through college and into the workplace.

It will affect who your friends are. It will affect who your friends aren’t. It will affect how you are seen, and how you see yourself.

Bacon says owning up to what you’ve done is the first step to solving a problem, and learning from it is another step you can take.

Let’s follow the shining example our principal displays.

Let’s get aware.