Tensions escalate in Monroe School District over claims of ‘hostile,’ racist culture

Dec 14, 2021, 7:37 AM | Updated: 10:08 am
Monroe schools...
Students, staff, and parents protesting against racism in Monroe schools. (KIRO 7 TV)

Tensions in the Monroe School District escalated Monday night as the School Board listened to parents, students, and teachers call for an end to student bullying and hatred, which they claim has been enabled by the district’s Superintendent Justin Blasko.

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Many, like parent Janelle Lewis — who has seven children in the district’s schools — expressed frustration with what they see as an escalating problem with no end in sight.

“As much as my kids have been through in this town, I’ve never said I hate this place — but I said it last week,” she said. “I’m tired of seeing people who are in positions of power do nothing. I’m tired of it.”

A petition with more than a thousand signatures calls for Superintendent Blasko’s resignation, who has refused to step down despite a vote of no confidence from an estimated 90% of teachers and staff. Students also staged a walkout on Monday afternoon.

That walkout was followed by Monday night’s board meeting, spanning nearly six hours with impassioned testimony from parents, staff, and more, all detailing their claims of an increasingly difficult environment for students.

“I personally have been assaulted, judged, stereotyped, negatively visualized, excluded, and given the self-image of being a hideous monster, just because of my sexuality and identity,” 17-year-old Monroe student Soren Eaton said.

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“Monroe schools have become more and more hostile for students of color, female students, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students, and Superintendent Justin Blasko has refused to take action to improve the culture and climate in our schools,” Monroe Education Association President Robin Hayashi added.

According to testimony from Equity Council Board Member Melanie Ryan, staff members have also levied claims describing how many are “terrified to give feedback or speak publicly” about the district’s issues, fearing that they might be fired for speaking out.

The Monroe School Board adjourned Monday night’s meeting without taking a vote on the matter.

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Tensions escalate in Monroe School District over claims of ‘hostile,’ racist culture