Following Uproar, Administration Works To Improve School Climate

by Reade Fenner and Tori Newby ‘22

Students and staff participate in a “study circle” at Einstein to discuss hateful language.

Following events at the girls varsity soccer game on September 30 and the subsequent scrutiny of Sherwood’s climate, the school administration is taking steps to address and remedy the situation involving racist and transphobic language. An investigation concluded that Sherwood students shouted derogatory comments at Einstein soccer players on September 30, followed by an eruption on social media with students from other MCPS high schools speaking out against Sherwood.

Principal Tim Britton has been working with students and staff to address the perception that Sherwood excuses racism and other forms of discriminatory behavior. In addition to holding a voluntary staff meeting on October 12 to discuss the situation, Britton also recently met with clubs representing various minority groups. “We are concentrating our efforts on recognizing various holidays and special celebrations from different cultures through our morning announcements,” said Britton, who said that he wants to explore with students what it means to be “One Sherwood.”

Britton plans to work alongside Spanish teacher Christina Aguilar and music teacher Jonathan Dunn to host a cultural celebration week, which will be held December 13 through 17. Similar to Sherwood’s 2019 Unity Week, this event will include singing, dancing, and poetic performances in an effort to showcase Sherwood’s diversity. “We want to do these things now, while things are fresh,” explained Britton. “It will hopefully be representative of all the different cultures we have at Sherwood.”

On October 1, the day after the girls soccer game, Britton made an announcement during class, expressing disappointment in the behavior of the student section without directly referencing the events at the game the night before.

Dissatisfied with Britton’s remarks, schoolwide SGA expressed via the @sherwoodsga Instagram account that Sherwood SGA has no tolerance for discriminatory speech. Schoolwide SGA president Mackenzie Samartzis and vice president Ariana Welch also made similar remarks over the announcements the Monday following the incident at the game.

Britton then sent a letter to Einstein’s principal and shared it with the Sherwood community. “We missed an opportunity to publicly acknowledge the impact that these actions had on you and the members of your school community prior to this correspondence. For this we are truly sorry, and we are committed to improving our approach to matters of race and equity,” read the letter.

The letter stated that representatives of Sherwood planned to travel to Einstein on October 11, where the MCPS Equity Initiatives Unity facilitated a “study circle” discussion between staff members and student leadership to repair and restore the schools’ relationship with one another.

Senior Megan Cha was invited to the study circle as the president of Asian Pacific Student Union (APSU). During the first meeting, participants shared emotions regarding the situation rather than discussing the situation itself, which Cha did not feel was entirely productive.

“[We are] not here to deny anything,” said Cha. “We’re only here to make amends, and we hope that translates.”

The study circle with Einstein was part of a five-meeting series, with future meeting locations alternating between Einstein and Sherwood.

After the third meeting on October 27, still Cha stated that they had still not explicitly discussed the events at the soccer game.

The MCPS Equity Initiatives team instead led discussions on vulnerability and stereotypes, with the goal for the fourth meeting on November 10 to go “deeper into the conversation,” said Cha. The final meeting is scheduled at Einstein for November 17.

On October 6, Black Student Union (BSU) and APSU held a joint meeting during lunch to provide students of color with an opportunity to reflect on the events.

During this discussion, many students related that discrimination against students of color is a continuous issue at Sherwood. Reflecting on her experience as a Black student at Sherwood, senior Daisia Smith said at the meeting, “there’s always been racism for all four years [I’ve] been here. Every year, it’s something … It’s embarrassing. It’s our job to unite the POC and our school because so many other schools think of us as ‘the racist school.’”

Dissatisfied with the response to such incidents, members of BSU and APSU expressed that they hope Sherwood will make more of an effort to alleviate discriminatory incidents and take action against hateful language.

“Moving forward, I think there just needs to be a better job of not sugarcoating,” said Welch, who is an officer of BSU. “[Sherwood does] a lot of band-aids. You can’t put a band-aid over something as large as racist, misogynistic, sexist, xenophobic, any comments made of a derogatory nature. That needs to be addressed.”