Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : City Officials, Educators Join the Fight on Racism

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Frustrated by a recent flurry of racially motivated incidents on school campuses here, educators and city officials have joined forces to explore several methods to fight the hatred.

"Someone in this valley is going to die from racism," warned Gary Mast, a teacher at Canyon High School, the site of two brawls earlier this month between students and alleged white supremacists. "We need to admit we have a problem and address it."

Mast, an instructor at the Canyon Country school for 21 years, teaches the school's "World of Difference" program, which promotes cultural understanding.

He was among a group of eight teachers and students who earlier this week presented the City Council with a petition signed by more than 200 students and a billboard-sized poster, both denouncing racism. Done in multiple colors and dotted with peace symbols, the poster was filled will eloquent pleas for understanding.

"The sad truth will come after the violence," one student wrote. "When we look at the cuts and wounds, we will realize that we are all the same color on the inside."

"Wouldn't it be boring if everyone was the same?" another wrote.

Councilman Clyde Smyth called for the creation of a citizens task force and proposed setting aside $25,000 in general fund money to tackle the issue.

"Racism is an insidious, overwhelmingly horrible issue that faces this country, community by community," Smyth said. "We have to take a stand and make sure we let them know it's not acceptable in the Santa Clarita Valley."

The council is expected to discuss the issue, and possible creation of the task force, at its June 14 meeting.

The recent fights are the latest in a string of racially motivated incidents that have plagued Santa Clarita in recent months.

Hate literature has appeared intermittently, beginning in December with a few leaflets tucked in grocery store products, and ballooning in March when more than 1,000 flyers were stuffed in student lockers at Placerita Junior High School.

Authorities said the March incident was the largest single distribution of hate literature in northern Los Angeles County in memory.

Teachers told the council this week that other Santa Clarita schools have been littered with flyers as well, but without word leaking out to the media.

School officials have responded to the incidents by hosting additional discussions about cultural diversity and tolerance.

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