The online forum has prompted an official response. Courtesy photo.

Santa Monica High School will hold a panel discussion at 5 p.m. Tuesday to provide a chance for the community to hear directly from students and community members who have experienced racially charged attacks on and beyond school grounds.

In recent weeks, local students have used an anonymous Instagram page known as “Dear Samohi” to share a myriad of discriminatory experiences that occurred on the local high school campus. Others have used their voices at board meetings and in interviews with the Daily Press to detail the racial slurs and derogatory comments that are regularly used against them.

A day before parents received letters affirming the district’s commitment to anti-racism, Samohi students and parents received an email from Principal Antonio Shelton informing them of Tuesday’s panel, which will be held online via Zoom.

“The purpose of formulating this panel is to give an opportunity for our community to understand the separate and interdependent racial/cultural experiences had by our students. The audience will hear the voices and the experiences of those within our community,” Shelton said in the email, mentioning this is the first step in a three-step process that will engage students of specific groups.

“Our panel of volunteers are being courageous and speaking their truth during this conversation. We are striving to provide a safe and respectful virtual environment. The racial composition of the group represents several communities within our school,” and they are expected to cover subjects related to power, privilege, bias, oppression, discrimination, identity and other important ideals, Shelton added.

“We will speak to the system that has created structural racism and privilege experienced by certain groups within our community,” and a range of emotions could be experienced during the conversation so it’s important for the community to listen with compassion and consider the feelings of those speaking, Shelton said. “Ultimately, this opportunity has been created to inspire hope and activism, while generating tangibles that we can infuse into our school community and outcomes that make people feel safe, open and free to be themselves at Samohi.”

“It feels like a step in the right direction. In the meeting a survey to address and hear from the community of students was suggested. That to me is an invaluable tool to address having a healthy learning environment. I also think it’s necessary to specifically address how students feel targeted by SMPD on campus. Our students are not to be criminalized. Clearly our students are in crisis and I imagine the environment as it stands today is having an adverse affect on them more than any of us realize.”

brennon@smdp.com