We: The reason for change


Rallies, protests, and Instagram pages addressing the lack of accountability and action taken by Glenbard District 87 have kicked off this school year for the Glenbard community. A racist TikTok video created by a sophomore at Glenbard North, circulating videos of students saying racial slurs across Glenbard schools, and rape allegations against a student at Glenbard South sparked the beginning of conversations about the desperate need for reform across the Glenbard community. 

On May 29, 2020, Glenbard North Administration was informed by concerned community members about a racially insensitive TikTok video. The video, created by a sophomore at Glenbard North, referred to another sophomore of African American descent as a “cotton picker,” causing alarm and frustration among students, staff, and parents. Students and concerned members of the community were encouraged to contact Peg Mannion, John Mensik, Donna Gastel, and David Larson to denounce ignorance and injustice which they feel fails to be addressed adequately. The following day, Glenbard North principal John Mensik directed a mass email to staff and students of Glenbard North High School, stating that the video was “contrary to the values of Glenbard North and District 87.” 

Some Glenbard North students and Glenbard community members were displeased with the email which had been sent and felt the student had not received acceptable punishment for these actions. They felt the students who acted against Article 7:20, expulsion or suspension should be their punishment. Article 7:20 of the Glenbard North policy manual addresses racial insensitivity in the school, stating, “The District will not tolerate harassing, intimidating conduct, or bullying whether verbal, physical, sexual, or visual, that affects the tangible benefits of education, that unreasonably interferes with a student’s educational performance, or that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment. Examples of prohibited conduct include name-calling, using derogatory slurs, stalking, sexual violence, causing psychological harm, threatening or causing physical harm, threatened or actual destruction of property, or wearing or possessing items depicting or implying hatred or prejudice of one of the characteristics stated above.” The Glenbard North handbook additionally states, “infraction of this rule will result in disciplinary interventions and may result in suspension and/or recommendation to the board of education for expulsion.”

Most Glenbard North community members felt that if a student acts discriminatory towards another, suspension and expulsion should be their consequence. If one student is not held to account for breaking this rule, other students will only see the leniency of the administration as an excuse to engage in the same behavior without proper consequence. Since the TikTok was taken off the student’s page and created with the student’s own device off school grounds, the administration decided that alerting the police was adequate enough to hold the student accountable. The student who created the TikTok remains at Glenbard North High School which many students feel defies the values the community claims which they hold themselves. The response to address this video was disheartening as the student was not held adequately accountable. 

Following the creation of the racist TikTok, students frustrated with the overall tolerance of racist behaviors within the Glenbard schools compiled previous videos of students within the Glenbard community using racial slurs both in and outside of school. These videos being spread via Snapchat, Instagram, messages, etc. only reveal to community members the history of the historic racism throughout Glenbard schools. Racism among the student population was not just exhibited by the TikTok video, but has been a recurring behavior among students made evident through the other videos. Microaggressions directed towards people of color seem to be ingrained, and in many cases tolerated, within Glenbard culture. Due to the impropper recognition of discrimination among students, the disease which is systematic racism through microaggressions within school systems has only been progressing within the community.

In August, several rape alligations directed towards a student at Glenbard South surfaced. A dean at Glenbard South, was responsible for working with survivors. According to Kevin Pinkelman, ’21, a student at Glenbard South, community members felt the dean of Glenbard South mishandled her duties; however, Superintendent David Larson, through email, informed community members that “The employee followed all District steps and reporting. I would ask that all involved stop spreading misinformation and false accusations.” It is evident the system set in place needs reform and the dean did what the district required. 

Those who survive sexual assault face an unerasable trauma which becomes a part of themselves. Due to this fact, the administration at Glenbard South should have created an atmosphere where these students felt safe and comfortable, as that is the bare minimum a school can do for a student who has suffered this much at the hands of another. 

Kevin Pinkelman states, “The administration must learn how to support survivors of sexual assault and we need to keep pushing until every administrator and teacher is fully capable of doing so.” It should be the responsibility of District 87 to have a better strategy in order to appropriately approach such delicate scenarios by not only supporting those assaulted but also providing them their options. Due to the fact survivors often face victim blaming rather than a support system, the Glenbard district should consider implementing a trained crisis resource. The Glenbard community wants to provide a safe and comfortable environment for all students where they are able to share their experiences and feel confident in the fact that they will get the justice they deserve. 

In response to disunity within their own community, students such as Glenbard North student Arsima Araya, ’21, and Kevin Pinkleman organized an accountability rally which took place on July 10, 2020. During the rally, students and community members across District 87 came together longing for a change in their community. Community members held signs and protested for a better Glenbard. Students brought forward demands for District 87, which included: The expulsion of any known rapists at all Glenbard schools, transferring the dean to a position where she does not work directly with students, a revision of the Title IX policy including transparent language and explicit definitions of sexual assault/abuse alligations, an investigation into any other sexual assault or abuse situation that the dean has handled, and mandated training focusing on comforting survivors and explaining all possible options for all Glenbard staff must take comprehensive training on sexual assault allegations. 

Change also took place through the creation of student-based Instagram pages for students to actively take part in reform within their own community. Through one account, students are able to anonymously message the account to voice their experiences in District 87. The account makes sure to warn users with trigger warnings at the beginning of posts and uses the phrase “in solidarity” in order for students to feel as though they are not in this alone but have a community of support to stand by them. 

By reading through the posts, students are able to read about situations other students have faced which they can either relate to or utilize in order to recognize the desperate need for reform within our schools. Similarly, another account advocates for change in Glenbard Schools by informing students of methods or opportunities they can take advantage of to create a better Glenbard. 

Additionally, after seeing public response and faced with the reality of the situation, district administration has implemented strategies in order to refine the Glenbard school system. According to Superintendent David Larson, “We are in a process of ensuring the new Federal Title IX guidelines are vetted and implemented appropriately (updating our policies/guidelines, updating investigation process, training for administration, etc.). In our plan, we are working to ensure we have approaches and systems for supporting victims of sexual assault (coordination with DCFS, counseling, follow up, referrals to outside agencies, etc.).” Multiple webinars also took place across schools. 

On July 9, Principal John Mensik held a webinar meant to discuss racial issues in schools and the community. Mensik states, “We had a significant number of our teachers attend and watch this webinar, who also provided me with positive feedback and insights on what we can do moving forward.” On September 29, community members had the opportunity to join a webinar held by author Jason Reynolds to explore the history of racism in America. A panel of African American students was also developed at Glenbard North by Kevin Coon, Glenbard North Social Studies Department chairperson in order for students to share their experiences and for teachers to hear their insights. 

Students at Glenbard North also had the opportunity to participate in a ChangeMaker Summit on July 31 through the MyNameMyStory organization who hosted a virtual gathering. The summit provided students the ability to take initiative through education regarding solutions and preventative measures to systemic racism. Students at Glenbard North are currently in the process of creating a summit of their own for all students to attend. 

Without community members uniting under the cause of creating a better Glenbard, change would have never been possible throughout the District. As Glenbard community members continue in the fight for justice and equality within school systems, they advocate for not only themselves, but pave a road for future generations. Upholding the doctrine they believe everyone is entitled to and demanding the reform of outdated principles makes it possible for future students to succeed in the community.