Anaheim High School Cancels Events Found to Be Demeaning

Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2012

“Seniores” and “Señoritas” events held at an Anaheim high school—in which students dressed as gang members and a pregnant woman pushing a baby stroller—have been canceled after officials concluded the activities were demeaning toward Latinos and their culture.

The events, which have been held for at least three years at Canyon High School, took place during senior activity week in June and were approved by campus administrators, according to school district officials.

The event was canceled after the Orange Unified School District launched an internal investigation in June in response to two complaints filed by former students.

“I conclude there was a lack of oversight/supervision and that the school administration should not have allowed this activity,” Aileen M. Sterling, executive director of secondary education for the district, wrote in an Aug. 10 letter summarizing her inquiry.

“Even if strict guidelines were provided,” Sterling said, “the result would still lead to hurtful and demeaning messages about the Mexican culture and to the students of the Mexican, Hispanic and Latino descent.”

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In recent years, about 55% of the students at Canyon High were white and about 16% were Latino, according to a Times database of California schools. The faculty was 87% white and about 8% Latino.

Campus administrators will undergo diversity and sensitivity training, and the school will offer an ethnic studies class for students and hold an International Week activity in the 2012-13 school year, according to Sterling.

In the most recent event in June, two boys dressed as a gardener and the woman pushing the baby stroller. Other students dressed as U.S. Border Patrol agents and “gang members with bandannas and tear drops,” the investigation found. Some students wore large sombreros and fake mustaches.

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