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Black Student Union Aims to Hold Lowell High School Accountable

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The Lowell Black Student Union holds a Black Students Matter rally at Lowell High School in San Francisco on Feb. 5, 2021 in response to a recent racist incident at the school. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Students and faculty across San Francisco Unified School District rallied outside Lowell High School on Friday in response to Lowell students posting racist and pornographic messages on a schoolwide digital platform, Padlet, during a virtual lesson on anti-racism.

The Black Student Union organized the rally and press conference in an effort to hold the administration accountable for the most recent events, which they said was one moment in a long history of systemic racism.

Lowell Black Student Union co-president Shavonne Hines-Foster speaks during a rally held at Lowell High School on Feb. 5, 2021, to address recent racist incidents at the school.
Lowell Black Student Union co-president Shavonne Hines-Foster speaks during a rally held at Lowell High School on Feb. 5, 2021, to address recent racist incidents at the school. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“We are here today to not only denounce the attacks made on our Black and Jewish communities two weeks ago, but also to denounce Lowell High School’s long-standing history of upholding the effects of systemic racism,” said student body Secretary Viviana Ojeda. “The Lowell administration efforts have been largely performative, to say the least.”

When the racist and pornographic messages bombarded the virtual classroom in late January, Lowell administrators initially wrote an email to parents and students saying that the lesson had been hacked – but in a later statement changed course, saying it was "highly likely" the posts were made by a student.

In 2016, Tsia Blacksher, then BSU co-president, led a walkout in protest of similar racist attacks. “These countless stories of racism we have heard from students and alumni have dated decades back. And it's about time we demand change now,” said student speaker Agnes Liang.

Student delegate Kathya Correa Almanza speaks during a rally at Lowell High School on Feb. 5, 2021, against recent racist incidents at the school.
Student delegate Kathya Correa Almanza speaks during a rally at Lowell High School on Feb. 5, 2021 against recent racist incidents at the school. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

CJ Lu Sing, a fellow Lowell student in the Multicultural Club said that despite BSU’s efforts and demands in 2016, "there has been minimal progress fulfilled with promises made.”

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BSU members also voiced support for a plan to eliminate the current admissions process, which is based on grades and test scores — in favor of a lottery system. The school board will vote Tuesday on the proposal.

“History is not a thing of the past. It’s something that lives among us," said student Kathya Correa Almanza, "Waiting for someone with courage to call it out. When these walls opened in the 1800s they were only open for white students. Now, those same doors exist, except they call it an admissions policy.” Correa-Almanza highlighted the lack of representation for Black students. At Lowell there are close to 3,000 students, made up of 2% Black student (districtwide there are 8% Black students), 11% Hispanic/Latino, 18% white and 50% Asian.

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With roughly 100 students, teachers and alumni in the crowd, Shavonne Hines-Foster, Lowell High School senior and BSU leader, pointed out that only one administrator came out to the press conference, but quickly left in the middle of the event.

“Oftentimes when we hold these events talking about race they [the administration] don’t show up,” Hines-Foster said. “Or if they do show up they’re quietly in the back which doesn’t show active engagement in dealing with this issue.”

“Our children are hurting. And as their parents we are, too,” said one member of the SFUSD African American Parent Advisory Council.

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