Brutal bus attack should bring us together to build a stronger school and community
By Julie Cheam, Managing Editor, for the Aegis Editorial Board
Oakland High School is horrified by reports that an Oakland High student allegedly set another young person on fire on an AC Transit 57 bus around 5 p.m. on Monday evening. We are especially concerned because the victim, Sasha, identifies as agender, meaning that Sasha does not identify as male or female.
According to news reports, the accused OHS student, junior Richard Thomas, has been charged as an adult with two felonies: aggravated mayhem and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, each with a hate-crime enhancement.
Oakland High should not be blamed for the actions of an individual student. We are ashamed and disappointed by Thomas’s reported actions. In fact, Oakland High’s individual students accept each other and respect the boundaries of others. A single action from one student does not compare to the many students who share positive vibes around Oakland High.
With this said, this act is yet a part of a larger situation that concerns all of us. We know that there have been several cases of robbery, theft, and violence within the school community this year alone. Monday’s incident is a brutal reminder of the work we need to do to prevent the violence that saturates Oakland and its reputation.
Doing all we can
We salute the Oakland High students who are doing all they can to show that this violence doesn’t define us.
On Thursday and Friday, members of the OHS community are painting their faces with the phrase “NO H8”–a slogan that emerged in 2009 as a response to California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. The “NO H8” slogan has become associated with acceptance of all people regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Students can write messages of support for the victim, Sasha, in the commons and outside of the Wellness Center on Thursday and Friday as well. The school’s Leadership class is collecting funds to help with Sasha’s hospital bills.
Next week, ten OHS students will visit Sasha’s school, Maybeck High School in Berkeley, to represent OHS in a positive way.
We need to learn to accept each other, not to judge. When we are too judgmental, we are blind to people we don’t know, especially if they are people we’re not used to seeing every day. Of course, Oakland High is a diverse community as well, with an active Gay-Straight Alliance and many students who do not identify themselves using binary gender labels.
As our principal, Matin Abdel-Qawi, said in his address to our school this morning, “We need to come together as a community and do all we can do to demonstrate Wildcat pride and support Sasha and family as they recover from this horrible attack.”
Oakland High, along with the Oakland community, is mostly made up of good people who want to prevent violence and promote a safer community. When a tragedy like this happens, we want to show that we’re not just going to accept it and allow people to generalize Oakland as a whole.
Wildcats, let’s promote acceptance rather than rejection. We know who we are, so let’s not allow the judgments of others to reflect upon us.
11/7/2013, 4:16 p.m. This version of the article has been updated to include the criminal charges brought against Thomas.