Letter to the Editor: To Truly Be an Inclusive School, La Salle Needs to Do Better


Carlie Weigel

“In my school consisting of 704 students, only 37% of us identify as culturally diverse. In a majority of my classes, I have been one of the only people of color.”

Letters to the editor, which can be sent to [email protected], are published at the discretion of the student editors.

To the editor,

My name is Mia Ly, and I am a graduating senior at La Salle. I haven’t spoken up much during my time at La Salle, but it’s about time I do. I’ve internalized too many of my frustrations regarding the issues at this school and I’ve realized that it is time for me to speak up — something that has been long overdue.

La Salle seems to pride itself in being such an inclusive school. However, in my opinion, La Salle only uses students of color when it is convenient for them. We disguise ourselves in promotion magazines, handpicking the diverse students to be used. If La Salle wants to seem so inclusive to prospective students, why are they not inclusive to the students already attending?

I would like to share my own story regarding racism at this school. Below is an essay I wrote regarding my experience. Since I do not know if my fellow peer would be comfortable with me sharing this story, I have replaced her name with Ava. Here is my story:

“Yeah, you guys look alike,” stated my junior year teacher after he asked me and the only other Asian girl in our class to stand next to each other. He crouched down, asked us to smile, and proceeded to say, “Yeah, you guys still look the same.”

Nearly everyone in the class, including my teacher, was white. Ava and I were the two Asian girls. At the start of each class, we would take attendance. Every class period, my teacher would move along and greet students by name. Sometimes he would skip over me. The days he would address me, he had to check his list to make sure he identified me correctly. He knew every person’s name in the room—except for mine and Ava’s.

In my school consisting of 704 students, only 37% of us identify as culturally diverse. In a majority of my classes, I have been one of the only people of color. I chose to take this class because this teacher had a good reputation of being inclusive and kind, so I thought that I would feel comfortable taking this course. Instead, I felt the most uncomfortable in this class than I have ever felt in any other class. As he took the time to get to know every other student in the class, he couldn’t be bothered to even learn our names. If he took the time to actually pay attention, he would see that Ava and I look absolutely nothing alike. My teacher, an adult who a student should feel comfortable with, made my classmate and I feel belittled. He perpetuated the ‘all Asians look alike’ stereotype and created an environment where I felt uncomfortable. When this first occurred, I was extremely upset. I felt like I couldn’t speak up for myself and learned to brush it aside.

Courage can take form in different ways, and though it took time, I learned that whether or not he had bad intentions, the impact is what matters more. I knew I needed to speak up about this issue in order to prevent similar incidents from further happening. I started speaking up about this problem with teachers I trusted. Talking to these adults made me feel like my voice was being heard and that this situation wasn’t something that could be brushed away. If I didn’t have the courage to speak up, my silence would imply his behavior was acceptable and perpetuate his discrimination.

Now, I don’t want your main takeaway to be that I grew from this experience. Yes, that is true. But this is something that shouldn’t have ever happened in the first place. It took me nearly a year to start talking about this. I was afraid to bring this issue up to the school. I was afraid and tired of seeing the repeated steps this school takes of covering up for their teachers’ mistakes. I didn’t think I had the time, energy, or mental health capacity to deal with this issue. The teacher I am talking about has a good reputation at this school. I was afraid that people would brush it off by saying “No, he would never do this” and not take me seriously. I didn’t want to hurt him back and stain his reputation. I now realize that this kind of thinking is a form of internalized self doubt. If he could take the time to learn everyone’s name, why couldn’t he learn mine or Ava’s? How do his actions reflect one of La Salle’s core values of “Inclusive Community”?

It seems as if the administration only cares about a given issue for a few days, then completely forget about it once they feel they have done an adequate job. I didn’t want my experience to be another example of that which is why I hesitated to bring it up. This is my first time I have spoken up publicly about this issue. I have been reluctant to bring this up to administration for I feared I would be pushed away. A student being afraid of speaking up about issues such as this should be concerning this school. But I am not alone. Too many of my peers have been internalizing this frustration because La Salle does not seem to care. Yes, you can listen to us, but what change will you make?

Another topic I would like to bring up is the treatment of the Black community here at La Salle. I am not a part of the Black community and am in no way trying to speak for or over them in any way. However, I would like to express some of my frustrations with how La Salle treats the Black community at this school.

This school year, the Better Together fundraiser took place in February. There are nine months in a school year. One of these months, February, is dedicated to recognizing Black history. February should be a time for the Black community at La Salle to celebrate their heritage and past. Instead, La Salle took that opportunity away from them by putting all their focus on the Better Together fundraiser. There are eight other months in a school year. Why couldn’t have La Salle chosen any other time? Why did you need to take this away from the Black community? Do you really care about the money you take in more than you care about student’s voices being heard? I urge La Salle to make changes to their schedule in order to prevent this from happening in the next school year and beyond. Do not try to silence a group who is already silenced enough.

Additionally, hesitating to spark a conversation about police brutality because it is too intense of a topic and would make people too uncomfortable just shows how privileged the La Salle community is. Police brutality is a reality that some students at La Salle face. Trying to protect the white community at La Salle from this “uncomfortable” topic totally disregards the black community. Most of the La Salle community will not face this racism and discrimination. You will not become a hashtag. That is not a reality for you. But for my friends and the rest of the Black community, that is their reality and they have to face that fear every single day. Do not take away this month from them. Allow them to have a voice. Give them more than a 5 minute time slot to talk during an assembly. Give them their month, and advocate for them beyond that month. If these topics make you uncomfortable, then you need to reflect on WHY it makes you uncomfortable. It is a luxury to be uncomfortable with situations like these when it is a reality to many.

In addition, I would like to advocate for our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Support, Mr. Yoshihara to have more hours. Currently, Mr. Yoshihara works only three hours each school day, but often stays longer to further support students. Mr. Yoshihara has already had such a positive impact on the students in the year he has been here. Whenever I pass by his office there is always a group of kids in there talking to him. There’s a reason his office is never empty. Mr. Yoshihara impacts his students and makes their voice heard. Now, I understand there needs to be budget cuts. The decision to choose what is necessary and what is not is very difficult. What I don’t understand is how Mr. Yoshihara deserves to not have more hours, but you can hire a new basketball coach that is not a necessity. Are sports and your top funders more important than a man who does so much for this community? Mr. Yoshihara was hired to help with equity and diversity issues at this school. If you don’t extend his hours, you are giving students, specifically students of color, less opportunity to speak to someone who actually understands them. Mr. Yoshihara is one of the very few staff of color at this school. What message would not extending his hours send to students? There aren’t many adults at this school who can genuinely understand the struggles these students have to endure. Mr. Yoshihara ensures that their voices are heard and strives to make a change for the better. I urge you to make changes elsewhere, for Mr. Yoshihara has contributed so much to this community in the short time he has been a part of it. How can we cultivate a more diverse community if our sole equity and diversity support only works three hours a day? La Salle is fully capable of applying for grants and fundraising in order to increase the hours Mr. Yoshihara works. His efforts need to be recognized because his main goal and priority is to contribute to the greater good in order to further La Salle’s diversity. He does this effectively by creating a safer environment for students of color and confronting the racial issues within the La Salle community by directly educating students on how to be allies.

Finally, it should not be the responsibility of students to bring awareness to issues in the world. We should not be trying to reach our administration via a Schoology post. That is not our responsibility. Our outrage should not be the determining factor on whether or not you speak up about certain issues. Do not put this responsibility on the hands of students.

I don’t want this to just be another message, another issue brought up to the school. I don’t want this to be forgotten about once you respond to this letter. I can only imagine the amount of students who can relate to my situation, who have been too quiet for too long. Issues such as these continue to arise, and they simply cannot be fixed in just a few days. La Salle needs to ask themselves why this keeps happening. Support the minorities in this school and help to amplify their voices. Be there for your students—actually be there for your students. Your listening means nothing to us if you do not take action.

Mia Ly, class of 2020