Kahoot incident sparks a movement
A meeting about college costs quickly turned into a platform for racist comments
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It took one minute to destroy the progress of an hour.
The Oct. 5 senior FAFSA presentation was a way for seniors to get their questions answered concerning FAFSA and financial aid. According to Ms. Nakia Morgan, a counselor who witnessed everything unfold, this presentation started off as one of the best that had ever been given.
“I think the entire presentation overall went well,” Morgan said. “I think the presenters were very knowledgeable about the subject, and we had a good Q&A session. I was kind of amazed because we had never had a presenter do that with that many kids in the auditorium.”
Ms. Morgan was one of many counselors managing the crowd at the FAFSA presentation. According to her, it was going very well and then everything changed.
A seemingly innocent Kahoot game became a medium for expressing homophobic, racist, offensive and discriminatory words through the students’ usernames.
For senior Arsheen Kanji, Div. 766, the nicknames started off harmless and funny and soon became shockingly inappropriate.
“I was not expecting people would result to discrimination in their names,” Kanji said. “I thought they would just do some funny usernames like Harambe or Kanye West, but then I saw a couple bad ones — I realized really soon that it was getting out of hand.”
Once a few inappropriate names were created, it was like a dam broke open, and all of a sudden it was a blur of homophobic, racist and bigoted names before the entire assembly.
There were a mix of reactions. Kanji said some people she talked to were laughing about the names.
“They were just saying ‘Oh my gosh! Did you see those names? They were really funny,’” Kanji said.
Because the names passed by in a blur on the screen, many students and staff did not see every name. Some students were offended to the point that they left the presentation to alert the dean of students, Mr. Milsap.
Morgan was monitoring the crowd of students, so she only saw some of the names.
“I found out about the names immediately after the presentation through Mr. Milsap,” Morgan said. “Students went to his office to report what had happened when they were there.”
Kanji said some students were deeply disturbed by what they saw on screen.
“A couple of my friends who were affected by it came and told me some of the names they saw,” Kanji said. “[They] felt very uncomfortable being in the school because they realized that people felt that way towards them.”
After the FAFSA presentation, Mrs. Hart, an assistant principal, and other members of the administration responded by addressing the situation through a second meeting Oct. 13 with the seniors.
This assembly’s purpose wasn’t to scold the the seniors, but to discuss how the school was going to move forward, according to Hart.
“The goal was just to raise awareness that what students say matters to people,” Hart said.
According to Kanji, during a quick trip to her counselor’s office, the idea to involve the Senior Class Officers in the assembly was born.
“[Administration] called us during 8th period, and we kind of sat down with the counselors and discussed how we felt about it and how we wanted to address to the senior class,” Kanji said. “At the end of the day, we all wrote our little speeches and the next day we were signed out of second to just go over the logistics and to edit our speeches and to make sure everything was good.”
At the assembly, every senior class officer delivered a speech they wrote concerning the presentation and how their fellow seniors should move forward.
“My focus was on consequences and how whatever mistakes you make, whether it’s on social media or whether it’s in person, there will always be consequences for it,” Kanji said. “The best way to not receive consequences is to be careful of what you say and what you post.”
The senior class officers weren’t the only ones preparing to speak to the senior class. According to Ms. Morgan, who was the first person to speak at the assembly, the counselors and administration prepared as a team.
“Mr. Tennison really wanted to drive in the point that words do matter,” Morgan said. “That may seem a little juvenile for seniors, but it’s still so necessary to reiterate. So, we prepared as a team and in terms of my individual part, my message was, ‘The torch will be passed and you’re going to leave this building. It’s going to be up to you to continue to progress and uplift America.’”
The message shared during the senior meeting didn’t stay in the auditorium. After the assembly, Ms. Hanly, an assistant principal, started and facilitated a new awareness movement that you can see on Twitter and in every hallway.
Hanly sent out an email to seniors asking them to compose a short statement about what they stand for. She has been posting the statements anonymously on the Lane Tech Stands Up Twitter page, @lanetechstands.
One post said, “This Lane Tech Student stands for diversity because culture is the most important aspect of social life.”
After the Twitter initiative, the administration presented the Post-it campaign. During their lunch periods, students could go to Room 113 and write uplifting messages on Post-it notes. These notes were then posted all over the school for anyone to take if they needed encouragement.
These movements have gained school-wide attention and gratitude from students who feel like their voices have finally been acknowledged.
“I know it’s made a really big impact,” Kanji said. “I’ve seen the Post-its all around Lane Tech stopped and read them and I really think it’s a really inclusive thing that they did. I absolutely love it.”
Another senior, Brianna Santiago, Div. 771, who participated in the Post-it note campaign, said, “I think the campaigns have been effective because they give people the opportunity to express how they feel about the Kahoot incident.”
Santiago also said she feels that the campaigns have helped to bring the school together.
Students aren’t the only people taking notice of the impact of these movements for the school environment.
“I think that between the presentation, the Twitter initiative, the Post-it campaign and the election walk out, there is now an awareness between staff and students that wasn’t there before,” Morgan said. “I think that everyone is on board to diminish or decrease the feelings of frustration and anger. I think the fact that we are acknowledging and we are supporting is enough and it says a lot about our school community.”
Students, teachers and counselors alike agree that this response was needed and has brought the Lane community together.
Administration wants to create an accepting environment in which all students can feel safe and welcomed, Morgan said.
“We can’t change the minds of those who hate,” Morgan said. “We can’t change the minds of those who discriminate or who are biased. There will always be racism. There will always be discrimination. But I do believe that there is more good than bad. I do believe that most Americans want to progress and want to move past the hate. So, my message to students is to lead with love, be proud of who you are, and stand up for what you believe in. You can’t go wrong with that.”