Letter to Denise Juneau

Dear Superintendent Juneau,

In the past months, you have made it your mission to make the district more equitable by ending the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC). We know from firsthand experience that the HCC program has its flaws, and we appreciate that you want to make it equitable for all. However, we don’t believe that your approach to this issue is appropriate.

Despite your good intentions, The Messenger feels that your perspective on the issue and the words you have used have alienated the people you are attempting to help. By using terms like “slave ship” and “Apartheid High” to describe the most racially diverse high school in Seattle, you not only disrespect and belittle the students of Garfield, you also oversimplify the effects of a complex issue the district created in the first place.

The term “Apartheid High” was born out of a history of segregation and racial conflict at Garfield — and the student body is very aware of this. However, this language is extremely outdated. Today it sounds less like a word that a Garfield student would use, and more like a slogan that has been dug up to garner public support for your agenda.

Your efforts to turn the public against HCC has taken a toll on the students at Garfield. By unjustifiably targeting Garfield and using our school as an example for everything wrong with HCC, you are contradicting your mission of serving us, the students. Talking about us, rather than with us, will do little to fix the district’s mistakes.

We are not another piece of evidence for your campaign. We are not the sole example of what a racist school looks like. This narrative you are perpetuating simplifies broader racial issues and paints an inaccurate, black-and-white depiction of our diverse community. Instead of working towards unity and pushing for true reform, your loaded language overlooks the many ways Garfield is impacted by HCC. It also overlooks the other schools and families that are impacted by HCC.

If you are truly urging the community to pay attention to the voices of students, please do so yourself first. Instead of relying on snippets from the few students you spoke to, take the time to truly connect with our student body. Instead of visiting our school on Purple and White, come in on a regular school day and talk to us.

Garfield is not a slave ship — it is a school. A school which brings together students from all walks of life to learn together under the same roof. A school that we are proud to attend. And it’s time you begin to treat it that way.


The Garfield Messenger