Garfield, Issaquah High Schools to tackle racism together

SEATTLE -- Students at Seattle's Garfield High School are reaching out to Issaquah High School students in hopes of tackling the issue of racism.

This comes after some Issaquah students were disciplined for posting racist tweets and texts messages about Garfield students during the basketball season.

Buoyed by unity, 300 Garfield High School students stood shoulder to shoulder on the steps to their school and chanted, "I believe we will win!"

Their message to the racist tweets and text message? Let's fix this.

"This is exactly what Garfield is, the student body is such an incredible group, standing out here in solidarity," said ASB President and Basketball Forward Kellen Bryan.

Garfield called on Issaquah High School to join them in a long-term dialogue with the intent of chipping away at what would make students think such vulgar, racists insults are OK.

In the heat of an intense basketball rivalry between Garfield and Issaquah High Schools came the ugly racial slurs posted by unnamed Issaquah students. One compared a Garfield cheerleader to Chewbacca from Star Wars; the others are too vile to repeat.

"I was very disturbed and very hurt this racism was very present in our time," said Lalah Muth, Black Student Union leader and senior at Garfield. "Clearly there needs to be some different actions in the curriculum and the knowledge and education needs to be there on both sides."

Student Leader Suzy Emerson, a junior at Issaquah High School, said student and faculty at her school are on board and welcome the opportunity.

Principal Andrea McCormick said informal dialogue has already started in the classrooms.

"This is a teachable moment and we want to be measured as we move forward," said McCormick.

"I think the big issue we're focusing on now is why there is a culture at IHS that people thought that was acceptable to tweet," said Emerson.

Muth said they wanted to make sure it didn't get swept under the rug: "We appreciate the apology but it is a stepping stone," she said.

The Issaquah students have been disciplined. The details are not public.

"There is zero level of tolerance for those tweets," said McCormick.

"Although it was a terrible event that occurred it will definitely have a lasting positive impact," said Issaquah's Emerson.

Both sides have agreed to a private meeting, and insist it will be the first of many. No time or date yet has been determined.

Issaquah's principal told KOMO 4 every student has taken a diversity survey. The school will analyze the results to determine other and more permanent strategies to address the issue of racism.