One year later- student voices

Designed+by+Magnet+staff%0AThe+Magnet+staff+has+opinions+on+the+progress+of+OHS+regarding+race.

Designed by Magnet staff The Magnet staff has opinions on the progress of OHS regarding race.

Magnet Feature Staff, Writer

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three-part series about the changes OHS has experienced in the past year since the lockdown on  Feb. 11, 2019. This article is not a comprehensive summary of the whole event; whereas the focus is on administrative action and school-wide changes.

Feb. 11 marked the one year after the major OHS lockdown, which shook the foundation of Owatonna High School and the community as a whole. The student body felt this fully and has spent the year processing it. The OHS Magnet staff interviewed students of color at OHS about what has changed and what the school and community can do to help make all students feel welcome.

During the course of the lockdown, many students were filed into the gymnasium. This was a result of reaction to a racist social media posts. The lockdown took place during the third period, around noon – 2 p.m. Traumatic events took place for many students while inside of the gymnasium. Those who were in the gym have separate experiences and often feel stronger emotions when the events of the lockdown are mentioned. This means that when asked how certain students feel the racial climate of OHS is the responses were scattered.

Student Perception

Because of the events on Feb. 11, some students of color have reported a harder time feeling comfortable, trusting and integrating with white students. In other cases, some students feel normal and feel as though nothing much has changed. When asked how he feels about the 2019-2020 school year, a sophomore boy said, “It’s gone pretty normal, nothing really big, no big changes.” 

However, some students would like to discuss more racial issues taking place in the school and some students have ideas as to what the administration should do. One junior boy said, ”Maybe they should start having in-class discussions about how black students feel and how white students should act when it comes to racial topics. In general, the topic of racism should be discussed more in class.”

Some students report a positive change in the environment at OHS. A senior girl said, “Since I’ve been working with a lot of the teachers and the principals, I would say they have come far, a long way, of just trying to learn and understand kids with different backgrounds and ethnicities, and they have been working very hard to get to know their students.”

Since I’ve been working with a lot of the teachers and the principals, I would say they have come far, a long way, of just trying to learn and understand kids with different backgrounds and ethnicities, and they have been working very hard to get to know their students.”

Freshmen this year didn’t know what to expect because of what happened last year. Coming in as a freshman is hard enough, but coming into the high school not knowing what the lingering effects of such a drastic event are can induce some unneeded anxiety. A freshman boy said, ”Hopefully we don’t have another lockdown.” He later said, “So far, the high school seems good, but I can still tell there’s some racial issue.”

Student Leadership

Some students think the administration has taken action and made positive changes to help students of color feel safe wherever they are. Students have some other ideas as to how the administration could improve the racial climate of OHS. A sophomore boy said, “I think that they could introduce new activities that everyone would be interested in so more people mix.” Although there isn’t much for “activities,” there are options for students to attend weekly lunch meetings, as well as clubs called Diversity Inclusion Group (DIG) advised by Mr. Jeremy Wood and Mr. Will Fish. Mr. Fish was the one who helped some students create DIG, and served as an adviser last year.  Mr. Wood took over this year. Their key purpose and focus is to discuss racial issues that go around in our school and in the community. As an adviser, Mr. Wood is in charge of organizing and scheduling meetings. Mr. Wood said, “One of the things DIG created was an incident report form for students to be able to share with the administration when they have racial encounters.”

I think that they could introduce new activities that everyone would be interested in so more people mix.”

DIG is currently planning events for both the middle school and high school students. Senior Night was created for the Muslim students because Ramadan prohibits them from attending prom; however, it’s not limited to Muslim students. All OHS seniors are able to attend senior night regardless of ethnicity or religion. There’s going to be a dance, games and food.  A senior girl said, ’’We also are gonna create a senior night a new tradition, so I don’t know if you have heard that, but we’re working on that with Mr. Elstad and a couple of other teachers in the school.”  

There is another student group at OHS titled the Mixed Roots group. This group has been celebrating different cultures for many years. They are in charge of multicultural nights and other miscellaneous events meant to celebrate all ethnicities. DIG is a discussion group with the intent on helping reduce racism in our community and our school, while the Mixed Roots group’s intent is to celebrate all cultures and ethnicities. Mixed Roots is currently planning a multicultural night.

OHS encourages students to come forward with more ideas to help make students and their community members feel safe and welcome. Students can get involved through the Mixed Roots group, DIG, and lunch meetings with the administration as well as students.