Editorial: Feds speak to us all
The infamous Wangsta Wednesday or Wangster Day during Red Wing High School Homecoming 2009 caused a ruckus. Parents, student leaders and school officials agreed afterward that actions and attire during the non-sanctioned dress-up event were inappropriate and wrong. But they also tended to sum up the incident as a case of good kids making bad decisions.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has determined the incident was much more than that. The day was a sign of a deeper problem.
The school district -- not just the high school -- is now under the feds' watchful eye and must go beyond the corrective actions promised a year ago. Taking a more connected approach to weaving respect and understanding into the school day is not enough, the feds say.
The district must take concrete steps that include addressing and punishing harassment, ensuring a hostile-free environment, creating a working group to address a new districtwide anti-harassment policy, and providing students with a forum to discuss racial issues.
When harassment and hateful behaviors occur, the targeted students also must have a clear process for filing complaints.
You may recall that Sept. 30, 2009, was officially Tropical Day. Some 60 white students dressed up as gangsters and hip-hop artists instead. They anticipated the consequences and brought changes of clothing.
A few students intended to offend, however. They escalated the event into Wigger Wednesday and added racist taunts to their hateful actions.
Red Wing mustn't dismiss the seriousness of the incident or the ruling of the Office of Civil Rights. Addressing the existence of what federal officials described as "a racially hostile environment" falls to everyone in the community -- and it's not limited to parents, students and school personnel.
This is not a case of "that was then, this is now." Homecoming week 2010 begins Sept. 27.
Today Red Wing observes its 10th Diversity Festival. Anyone who hasn't realized how our community has grown and benefited from a diverse population should spend time in Central Park and discover the celebration is more than window dressing.