Hazel Wolf K-8 STEM School seventh-graders Melat Zigta and Zariyah Quiroz speak at a protest at the school on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019.
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Hazel Wolf K-8 STEM School seventh-graders Melat Zigta and Zariyah Quiroz speak at a protest at the school on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019.
Credit: Courtesy of Maureen McConley

Students and parents protest racial slurs at north Seattle school

Parents and students held a protest outside Hazel Wolf K-8 STEM School in north Seattle Friday, calling on school leaders to do more to respond to students’ use of racial slurs.

Hazel Wolf students said for several years running, they’ve heard students calling their black peers the N-word and "monkeys." Parents say students of different races have been the perpetrators and victims of racial slurs at the school.

Seventh-grader Zariyah Quiroz said the most recent incident she witnessed was a week ago – but that administrators at the predominantly-white school initially did not believe students' reports.

Zariyah said an administrator then asked students to propose a solution.

"We all looked at her, like – what do you mean?" Zariyah said. "So you’re going to put this on us, that we have to solve racism now? No. We’re 13."

At the protest, Zariyah read a list of students' demands, including age-appropriate school assemblies about racist language, and support for students who are on the receiving end of the harassment.

Maureen McCauley, Zariyah's grandmother and a member of the school PTSA Racial Equity Committee, said in an email that the event was not meant to illustrate that Hazel Wolf has an unusual problem.

McCauley said the protest was meant to teach students more about the impact of racial slurs, and to encourage better communication with parents — especially those not fluent in English — about racist incidents.

McCauley credited Hazel Wolf Principal Debbie Nelsen and the school staff for their ongoing commitment to racial equity work, including a Racial Equity Team and restorative justice circles for students.

Tim Robinson, spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools, said by email that racism in any form is unacceptable in schools, and will not be tolerated.

"Today’s student demonstration highlights the need for continued focus and diligence," Robinson wrote.

"We will continue to support school leaders in addressing incidents of racial bias and hate; as well as provide guidance on how to support community healing," he said.

The school administrators attended Friday's protest, and sent the leaders an email of support saying they would work together on the next steps, including a possible parent forum.