Parents packed into a Utah high school last night to discuss racism allegations at Alta High School. Members from Canyons School District and a member from the federal Department of Justice fielded questions from the public at the meeting.
The Canyons School District has been investigating what they are calling very serious cases of alleged racism at Alta High School after a white junior, during a March 17 spirit assembly in which juniors wore white, donned what looked like a Ku Klux Klan hood, which had holes for his eyes.
Larz Cosby, a multiracial student, complained to the school’s administration and blogged about the KKK incident.
“Who in their right mind would plan to blatantly enforce their hate for others in a large gathering in a public school? How is it a joke? How is that funny?…My experience is that to be a nonwhite individual is a bad thing at Alta High School.”
Cosby’s blog post has drawn more than a thousand comments, ranging from praise for his decision to come forward to criticism that he is merely trying to get attention. Some of the comments include threats of physical violence and racial epithets aimed at Cosby. The school district says comments on the blog are very disturbing and make it clear education is needed at Alta High and in the community.
Two more students are being accused of racist behavior after investigators say they found text messages exchanged depicting burning crosses.
Principal Mont Widerberg and Assistant Principal Mark Montague were placed on leave during the investigation but Wilderberg later announced his retirement by sending a letter to the Canyons School District.
While some students display an alarming lack of concern over the incident, others are speaking out. Davonte Merritt, a senior at Alta High who is black, tells The Salt Lake Tribune he was “furious” when he saw the student wearing a KKK-type hood repeatedly dart onto the basketball court and run in circles, making a heil Hitler salute.
“On the second or third time, I wondered why no one had stepped in and stopped him,” Merritt said. “A lot of the people are thinking this has been blown way out of proportion. … I think that what needs to happen is going to happen.”
Merritt said he lives in the same neighborhood as the student involved, and both come from Mormon families.
“I honestly don’t think it was his family or him even [who] was racist or intended it to be. But what other way can you intend it to be? You put that [white hood] on, that’s a symbol for something. I don’t think he’s a bad kid. I just think he made a really bad choice, a really stupid decision.”
Canyons School District says the problem with racism is much larger than the pep rally incident which is why they asked the Department of Justice for help. The district is hoping the tension and concerns of alleged racism at Alta will be assuaged after their investigation is complete and after the Justice Department talked with students’ parents and local residents, which is what last night’s meeting was all about.
Residents waited for what was supposed to be a half-hour meeting that turned out to be a two-hour closed-door meeting.
Canyons board members aren’t commenting about the closed-door session but say they will release further information in the coming days about their finding of alleged racist acts that occurred at Alta High.
They’re still asking whether this was a teenage prank? Come on! I don’t understand how a 16 or 17-year-old, in this day and age, can be unaware of what a KKK costume represents. And the heil Hitlers? Explain that. It sounds like education is desperately needed at Alta High School, but it should’ve started with parents at home. Not just with the parents of the jackass that wore the KKK costume, but the parents of every idiot who left threatening comments on Larz Cosby’s blog.
Good riddance to the principal who resigned – how did no one in a position of authority yank the KKK wearing fool out of the school the minute his foot hit the gym floor? The student who wore the hood should be expelled and they should track down each and every student who left a threatening comment on the blog and expel them as well. School officials should have a zero tolerance policy in response to racism and hate crimes.
See students react to the alleged incident in the video below: