California News

How Two Contra Costa Student Journalists Exposed Their High School Teacher’s Racism

SAN RAMON — A Dougherty High School teacher was kicked out of class after expressing “disturbing and distressing perspectives” on race during an interview with student journalists, according to an email sent by the school principal this month.

Principal Evan Powell, in a letter to staff, students and parents, said the teacher ‘was not on site and has not been teaching since DVHS administration’ was alerted to the discriminatory comments that he made facts about black and Latino students as he spoke to two student reporters from the DVHS campus newspaper. , The Wildcat Tribune.

Ilana Israel Samuels, director of communications for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, confirmed that the teacher, a former substitute hired this year to teach global geography and economics, no longer teaches at DVHS or any other school. of the district.

In an interview with this news agency, junior DVHS Emily Wong and senior Luna Ashebir, both Wildcat Tribune reporters, said they originally wanted to interview Roger Barnholdt to write about his experience as a historian of the Olympic Games. But the conversation took a turn, Wong and Ashebir said, after he began recounting his time teaching at San Lorenzo High School in Alameda County.

Barnholdt told student reporters he thinks Latino and black students — who make up 64.5% and 12.4% of San Lorenzo High School enrollment, respectively — “don’t value education as much as other groups” , adding that his comments were meant to be taken “in general, without trying to be biased”. In contrast, DVHS has an enrollment rate of 4.4% Hispanic or Latino students and 2.7% Black students. The majority of the student population, 77.4%, is Asian and 10.5% white, according to US News & World Report.

Barnholdt also told reporters in the taped interview that he didn’t feel welcome at San Lorenzo because of his race. “A lot of them would say that out loud. I’m not going to say that’s everyone, but they would say they didn’t like white people. So, you know, obviously I’m a white person he told student reporters.

During the interview, Barnholdt used an example of when a student wouldn’t give him a “punch”, which he perceived as an insult against him and his ancestors who “had been here for 250 years” and his father who “left his youth for our country during World War II.

Ashebir and Wong, who said they were both shocked by his statements, got to work on the story. The article published by the journalist duo, “Professor Barnholdt expresses controversial views towards certain racial groups of students”, was published on the student publication’s website on October 4. As a testament to the power of the student press, the principal sent an email the same day disavowing the teacher’s statement and praising the student’s work.

“We are proud of our student journalists for sharing the truth about this story with their peers and the community,” Powell wrote. He added: “This teacher expressed values ​​and opinions that were inconsistent with the values ​​we teach and promote among our students, and detrimental to the learning community we work to create where every student is valued, supported and empowered to reach their full potential. ”

Barnholdt did not respond to a phone message and email requesting comment.

Ashebir and Wong said they were simply doing their duty to report campus news and felt validated by their editor and school administration, who did not try to suppress the information and instead encouraged to exercise their First Amendment rights.

“Our intention is, as journalists, to always let people know what’s going on,” Ashebir said.

California Daily Newspapers

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