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Racial task force strives for campus harmony

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Bishop McElroy spurs action

In light of local and nationwide racial tension, the Cathedral Catholic High School administration recently assembled a Racial Harmony Task Force to explore the topic of racism and to increase representation for minority groups on campus.  

“[The CCHS administration] started to see protests against racism and other injustices happening in the media and at high schools,” CCHS Principal Dr. Kevin Calkins said. “After conversations with parents and students, we were motivated to take action.”

The Racial Harmony Task Force, composed of teachers, students, coaches, and other stakeholders, includes representatives from East Asian, Hispanic, African American, and Caucasian ethnic groups. The goal of the task force is to provide CCHS administrators with a better perspective toward racial challenges and to develop a more supportive campus that embraces diversity, Dr. Calkins said.

The issue of racism became part of a widespread conversation at high schools in 2016 after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Mr. Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem to protest racial prejudice and injustices, initiating a nationwide debate. The protest inspired many student athletes to kneel during sporting events at various California high schools.

While CCHS sent an email in the fall semester requiring its athletes to stand during the National Anthem out of respect for their country, the protests prompted administrators to create the task force, Dr. Calkins said.

Bishop Robert McElroy of the San Diego Diocese, who spoke out against racism during an August speech regarding the Charlottesville church shooting, encouraged the formation of the task force.

“Racist acts are blasphemies against the God who is the Creator of the whole human family and looks upon every man, woman, and child as equal in dignity and in worth,” Bishop McElroy said.

Further, Bishop McElroy contacted schools in the Diocese of San Diego, urging administrators to proactively address the topic of racism with students.

“Racism is incompatible with the Catholic doctrine,” Dr. Calkins said. “CCHS is not immune to racial prejudice. So, we want to do our best to concentrate on any issues that may be occuring.”

The Racial Harmony Task Force held its first meeting in February to spark discussion among facilitators and the committee as to the best ways to promote diversity and to improve ethnic representation at CCHS.

“At our last meeting, we tried to develop a snapshot of CCHS as it is right now,” task force member Luke Meyers ‘20 said. “It was definitely eye-opening on issues that need to be addressed and changed.”

The two facilitators of the task force, a Hispanic man, and an African American woman, recently spent a day at CCHS to develop an impression of the environment on campus. The task force will use the facilitators’ observations and anonymous survey results regarding student sentiment toward racial groups to formulate a plan of action for change at CCHS.

“I hope the work of the task force and results of their recent survey will motivate our principal and administration to take direct action,” former CCHS counselor and Peers Living United in Solidarity (PLUS) club moderator Mr. Torrey Eason said. “Otherwise, our community will stand stagnant while other schools in the area soar to reach new peaks in community enrichment and engagement.

“Our school should be viewed as an accessible and equitable place, not because our country’s lawmakers or school administrators said so, but because God said so.”

Looking toward the future, CCHS administrators hope the Racial Harmony Task Force will institute a culture of growth and proactive change on campus, Dr. Calkins said.

Although the task force has yet to determine any concrete methods for promoting diversification at CCHS, it will be discussing and introducing solutions at a follow-up meeting in May. Students can contact the task force to ask questions or to express concerns by emailing or speaking to Dr. Calkins.  

“Allowing students to contribute to the racial conversation and celebrate ethnic diversity in a valuable way is so important,” Meyers said. “The Racial Harmony Task Force gives them representation and a voice.”

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The School Newspaper of Cathedral Catholic High School
Racial task force strives for campus harmony