Campus Discrimination

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Campus Discrimination

     Despite the widely-held belief that River City’s “red rule” is unfairly enforced, a new survey suggests that the rule is, in fact, forced without bias.

     Schools nationwide are trying to get a handle on issues of gang activity on their campuses. In recent years, many schools have added specific bans against symbols, colors, accessories, jewelry, and messages that advertise or identify gang affiliation. Some schools have even went as far as to have a relationship with law enforcement to enforce these rules and regulations.

     Here at River City, the “red rule” states that students are not allowed to wear clothing items with any hint of red, including shoes and backpacks. Since this is a strictly enforced rule, students are still “dress coded” and sent to the office very often.

     The Student Handbook defines this policy in a section entitled “Gang Symbols/Clothing/Accessories”. The policy states:

     “Clothing, jewelry, accessories, symbols, hairstyles, hair bands, wristbands, lettering, colors, notebooks, drawings or other adornments which displays, promotes, advertises, suggests, supports or encourages membership in or affinity for gangs is prohibited. The ‘flashing’ of colors is not allowed. Red, especially in combination with white or black is prohibited.

     “Clothing, backpacks, shoes, laces, make-up and other adornment may not demonstrate or suggest gang-related symbols or colors. Backpacks may not ‘flash’ colors. No red backpacks!

     “This policy shall be applied at the discretion of the administration. Because symbols of gang affiliation change, school officials will work with West Sacramento Police to update the definition and enforcement of gang-related items and colors.”

     Many students at the school have mixed opinions on this policy. Some say that it is fair and others say that it is not. But overall, students want the rule to be revoked because they find that they should be able to wear any color.

     The Raider Voice staff surveyed 265 students at River City about their opinions and experiences with the red rule. 56% of the students said they believed that the rule was enforced unfairly.

     A student attending River City by the name of Rebekah Munoz said, “Style trends commonly use the color red. When Mexicans wear it, school campus [supervisors] always tend to swerve our way. It really depends who is wearing it!” Munoz feels that she is discriminated against and that it’s not just her but other Hispanics that attend the school.

     The survey also asked about students’ experiences with how the rule is enforced. 50% of African American students, 52% of Asian students, 56% of Hispanic students and 58% of white students who admitted to wearing red to school had also been dress-coded.

     Overall, of those who had ever worn red to school, about 55% said they had also been dress-coded. This seems to indicate that race is not a factor for who is asked to change.

     The demographics of who is dress-coded also seem to be proportionate to the demographics of the school.

40% of students surveyed who had been dress-coded were Hispanic, 31% were white, 19% were Asian, and 10% were African American.

     According to LA Times School Guide, 40.7% of the schools race is of Hispanic ethnicity, 34.8% is white, 15.4% is Asian, 6.3% is black, and the other is 2.8%. According to the same site, there are around 2,000 students enrolled.

     Despite this, most students do not perceive that the rule is enforced fairly.

     Another student by the name of Sierra Duggan said, “They think that when people wear red that it’s responding to gangs and there are way worst areas than ours and their high schools let them wear red so it honestly doesn’t make sense.”

     Other students believe that the rule isn’t forced fairly because the administration doesn’t stop people who are wearing red even though it’s there job. A student said, “ I wore orange sandals and I got stopped. While I got stopped I counted 7 people who walked by who were wearing actual red and not bright orange…”

     Some opinions students have shared are, “We should all feel like one and not be divided by color or gang color”, “Gang violence doesn’t really exist in West Sacramento, plus there are schools across the river that are able to wear red”, and “I believe that we should all be able to wear what we want. They judge people on what they wear and it’s just not fair.”

     The rule states that students are not supposed to wear red and they must change if they are. It is understandable not to catch everyone but, students find that if other people are wearing red and it’s noticeable then it should be enforced fairly upon everyone.

     Many students, such as Zach Reeder don’t think the rule should be in play at all. Reeder stated, “It is only given to some students and not the rest but it shouldn’t be enforced at all because RC does not have a gang problem and the staff should stop treating everyone like they’re gang members.”

     Stan Mojsich, River City’s principal, claims that any students who are affiliated with any gangs are talked to. Mojsich also said “Any student who seems to be associated with a gang has to conduct a very long, detailed conversation. Usually what we try to get them to do is to make good choices…”

    Because of this gang problem the school decided to ban the color red from students attire. Mojsich says that after this rule was put into play gang problems and violence ended.

    When the topic of revoking the rule was brought up, Mojsich said, “I am looking into possible leniency on the rule, and I am looking into changing it…” This brings up the question, if Mojsich is in favor of changing the rule, why hasn’t it changed? Also, another question is, is the rule related to discrimination?

     Mrs. Rodriguez, an assistant principal here at school, dress codes students everyday. When asked if the red rule was enforced fairly on campus, she answered, “I think in theory it is, I’m sure in practice it is not. I think people try to be as fair as they can be, but we can’t catch everybody all the time.”

     Students’ disapproval of the wrong connected to a larger conversation going on the United States. Since 2012, a movement was created called Black Lives Matter that is focused on raising awareness for unfair treatment towards African-Americans. This movement was made after a young adult named Trayvon Martin was put on trial for his own murder. Black Lives Matter is a national organization that works for the equality of black life. It was founded by three women, named Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors, who all have dark complexion.

    On the official website, one of the quotes included on the page was, “This is not a Moment, but a Movement.” This shows that it’ll go on for a long time. Citizens in the country support the organization, and almost every week there are news articles and videos about arrests and killings of innocent civilians.

     While many people are confident and assertive being on the movement’s side, there are others who are in the neutral status. Mrs. Rodriguez, for example, is one of these people. “I’m kind of one of those people that thinks that we need to reevaluate how we’re looking at things so that African American people don’t feel discriminated against. But I feel like the Black Lives Matter thing makes you choose a side.”

      Mrs. Hearne, a campus aide, said a number of the students who she labels as “wannabes” have caused the rule to be enforced. What a “wannabe” is, is hard to define.

     A girl, who wishes to keep her identity a secret, said that she was dress coded for wearing red shoes and her friend was wearing the same shoes as her but she got to keep her shoes on. The girl is Mexican and her friend is white.      

     “Racial profiling in a way, most seen are minorities. They are being judged through outward appearances,” the student said about this incident.

     Apparently the rule is there for the safety of the students, because there were times when the colors had endangered the students. Students oppose this rule, especially those of minorities because they feel targeted.

     Although the survey indicates that race is not a factor in who gets dress-coded, it also shows that a large percentage (45%) of the students who wear red to school are not stopped. This creates a situation in which the rule is strictly enforced in some instances and not enforced at all in others. This leaves students to question the rule. Why is one student stopped when another isn’t? Are campus aides playing favorites? Is the rule discrimination?

     As the policy states, the red rule is “applied at the discretion of the administration.” If the rule is going to stay, then that “discretion” needs to be applied more broadly. Campus aides say that they “do all that we can do” by getting as many people as they can. Maybe they need to be directed to make sure that almost everyone who breaks the rule gets in trouble for it. If the rule is enforced broadly, then students will stop thinking that there is bias in how it is enforced.

     Overall, there is still controversy between those who think discrimination occurs on campus, and those that think differently, but everyone is affected by the problem as a whole.