By: Madeline Roper ’21
In today’s modern climate, racism and sexism are abundant, especially in high schools, where racist/sexist terms and actions are common.
As the only high school that has separate gender buildings on the same campus, Regis Jesuit’s division heads and members of its Diversity Action Group can offer an important perspective on this pressing issue.
“I think we could do a lot better with racial and gender discrimination. In some ways we’re hampered by the fact that we’re single-gendered and separated. Because we don’t get to have the everyday, in your face conversations about gender equality for instance,” Tim Bauer, Head of the Girls Division says, acknowledging the issue.
At Regis Jesuit, there is a male as the head of the Girls Division, and a female as the head of the Boys Division. This poses issues that may not occur if the gender roles were reversed, but it also helps get influence from the opposite gender.
Karen Wuertz, the head of the Boys Division, believes that intentional opportunities for the genders to interact could help eradicate sexist instances.
“-it’s our responsibility and duty to not be negligent in providing you guys the right kinds of opportunities to get to know each other really well and be prepared for that,” Wuertz says.
Regarding racism and racist instances within high schools, Nzana Thillot, a member of Regis’ Diversity Action Group (also known as DAG), shares how DAG influences members for the better.
“DAG is a group of diverse students that talk about the problems in the Regis Jesuit community. It’s an open-space where these problems are heard and solutions are discussed,” Thillot says. “Whenever situations dealing with sexism and racism occur to a student, DAG is the place to go if you want that situation dealt with in a direct and effective manner.”
When told that there have been more than 87,000 reported racist incidents in high schools from the years 2007-2011, Thillot was not surprised.
“We should all strive so that those 87,000 incidents in those five years can continue to lower so that everyone no matter where they come from or what they look like can feel comfortable at school and be able to learn efficiently. Students shouldn’t be distracted to learn because they’re being harassed by their race, sexuality, religion, or anything else that’s a part of their identity.”
While Regis Jesuit prides itself on incorporating diversity and culture to their campus, a large problem with diversity comes from the teachers themselves. According to an American Community Survey conducted in 2010-2014, 77.5% of Colorado’s population comes from white ancestry, and this reflects itself in Regis Jesuit’s faculty and staff.
“For instance, we serve a population at Regis Jesuit that is primarily white, and that’s just the population of Colorado. But we’re also trying to open doors to folks from all different communities who would feel welcome to workhere.” Bauer says, agreeing that the statistic does in fact show itself within Regis Jesuit’s staff, but not the students.
“If we’re going to serve those populations how do we get people to work here that also want to represent those communities?” Bauer asks, saying how Regis is one of many high schools that struggle with hiring non-white faculty and staff.
Regarding sexism, the consensus seems to be that Regis’ campus and separate buildings offer many pros and cons that wouldn’t be prevalent in a co-ed or single-gender high school.
“In a culture like ours where we’re intentionally single-gender and intentionally keeping the boys and girls apart for certain parts of the day, and then letting them commingle at certain times, and trying to be strategic about that, we have to be even more vigilant.” Wuertz says, stating that strategy is important to better co-mingling in students.
The solution could be intentional opportunities for co-mingling, the hiring of diverse faculty and staff, or providing more platforms for students to voice their opinions. But, when it comes to combating racism and sexism, Regis Jesuit and other high schools have come a long way, but still have a long way to go.