“Being a Latinx at Los Altos kind of felt polarizing, at the time I went there there were only a small number of us. The disparity between Los Altos and Mountain View was VERY apparent and as someone from Mountain View, it just felt like I was outnumbered there. My freshmen year I remember that another student, in a ‘jokingly’ manner, had called me a ‘Mexican girl with a green card’ and had said to my other friend that ‘Osama Bin Laden was her uncle’ (she was South Asian). Neither of us knew how to react and just internalized it and tried to deflect it but it did leave a lasting impact on us. Mind you, I’m a Latinx with a lot of privilege and would consider myself passing in that I have English fluency and I’m lighter-skinned, but that still stood out at Los Altos. My senior year, I was in the Film Analysis class and for my Senior Project had collaborated with a classmate/friend and we decided to film a music video with a bunch of our friends in it. I was really proud of our work and the amount of time and energy that was poured into it by everyone who was involved, and once our music video was picked for the school wide viewing, I had overheard another student call our project a ‘stupid music video with a bunch of Mexicans dancing in a laundromat.’ No one in the music video was Mexican. They were Phillipino, Black and white. Within the curriculum, I didn’t feel like my own voice nor history was being brought up or amplified in History or English classes, and admittedly it was because of this that made me realize during my high school years that I was much different than Los Altans, white folx, privileged folx, etc. My first two years there I just didn’t really care about school due to personal, extraneous reasons and even when the school tested me for ADHD as a possible reason for my performance and ended up not showing signs of it, I was just told to ‘work harder,’ then was threatened to be sent to Alta Vista if I didn’t improve my grades. I could tell the teachers did NOT care about helping me, I had to reach out to THEM, and I was made to look like a troublemaker even when it wasn’t true and was unfairly disciplined without even given a fair chance. My sophomore year in P.E., I was standing next to a group of students who were talking, but I wasn’t, and the teacher stopped in the middle of lecturing and just randomly shouted at me, “Jasmine take a lap!” I was confused and asked him why, I didn’t do anything, then he added another lap. I fought him again and he increased it to a mile and when I said no he sent me to the office. I went and met with a school admin who told me teachers “at that time in the semester were prone to sending students to the office due to stress.” She told me that we can say that we talked about “making choices,” how maybe I shouldn’t be standing next to students who are talking. When I got back, classmates who witnessed what happened came to me and ACTUALLY reassured me that I did NOTHING wrong. The rest of the day I was crying because this added onto the pressure of my possible transfer to Alta. I took APES my senior year and even being in that classroom and the only Latinx (there might have been a couple others but I don’t remember) had somehow made me feel embarrassed; there was an assignment where we had to share in pairs our ecological footprint and to hear every student around me say that their lifestyle of living in 5+ bedroom houses, with guest homes, multiple cars, vacation homes and tennis courts/chicken coops had made me feel embarrassed to share that I live in a two bedroom home shared by 5 people and I didn’t drive a car. Honestly it was after that interaction I grew to hate being in that environment and skipped class nearly every week. This same experience was really common among fellow Latinx students/friends at Los Altos, folx who were the only BIPOC in the classroom and because of this, had decided to drop their AP/Honors classes.”
-Jasmine Diarte, Los Altos High School, class of 2015
“Life at Los Altos was never easy as one of the few Black kids at Los Altos High School. Like any kid you are learning to become an adult while dealing with the confusion of teenage years. Every highschooler deals with the issues. What every highschooler didn’t have to deal with was the racial disparities and biases that came with being a minority on that campus. I knew I wasn’t viewed the same as other students by the staff and administrations. We knew that our disciplines came swifter and harder than other students. The vibe I got was the staff and administrators who thought I came from other areas of the Bay would see kids who were struggling as an inconvenience that would be easier to remove than fix. I would constantly be threatened with Alta Vista [the district continuation high school] and treated like I was unruly when there were actually more serious issues behind my tardies and aloofness in class. As stated earlier, Black and Latinx are treated differently when they step onto school grounds. We had to deal with racism and bigotry from the staff and students with no one to really reach out to about these problems....
“A particular problem I endured was with the police stationed on our campus. Multiple times I was stopped by the police for no reason and was forced to stand on the sidewalk by the staff parking lot while an officer made up reasons why he could ticket me. While he wasted my time I would notice the “privileged” students riding past breaking all the “laws” he was just getting on me for. The second time this happened to me I was subsequently late for class and therefore I was required to go to Saturday school. There they treated me like a delinquent and threatened me with being sent to Alta Vista. At no point did any staff or administration try to seek out and understand why I was late or having issues in class. It seemed as if they would rather get rid of me then help me or students like me. Many other Black and Latinx students have been harassed by the police officers on campus and their presence already puts us on edge. Dealing with a student body that already had no sensitivity to race or the disparities that come with it was already hard enough for me but then dealing with having to pass Paul Blart on my way to school only amplified those feelings. The question I raise is how does a school that treats their students like this turn around and expect them to perform the same as some of the more privileged students. I know the answer to them is either get them by or send them away. If they want a better community for student success on campus they should get rid of police on campus because they have and continue to do more harm than good. It creates an unhealthy environment for students, limiting their full potential for success. No student should have to worry about things that don’t pertain to education at school. A learning environment that is supposed to be safe. Instead it was a battle of self preservation to just get through the day.”-
-Kiyoshi Taylor, Los Altos High School, class of 2015
“Racism at Los Altos is so normalized that I was always gas-lighting myself into thinking it wasn’t as bad as I thought. But it was. It’s hard to know where to start. There was a very well-respected math teacher who was blatantly racist almost daily. She would make comments towards Asian students every day. She would talk about Latinx and Black people as if there weren’t any on our campus. She would use the guise of ‘statistics’ to justify her racist statements. I was lucky to be in her class with one of my best friends, who was a South Asian American student like me. One day, this teacher pointed to me and said “if you go to India, they look like you,” then pointed at my friend and said “they don’t really look like you, you look more like a mutt.”
I had an English teacher who was of white and Japanese descent and was white passing. One time, in a one-on-one conversation with me, out of nowhere, she told me that when she had kids she wasn’t going to tell them that they were Asian because ‘why make things harder for them.’
White students at Stanford made so many off-hand racist comments, towards pretty much any community of color they can think of, the only way to get through the day was to put up a shield, so that’s what I did. I thought everyone I encountered in life would more or less be like the kids at Los Altos High School, and I’m glad I was proven wrong. But at the time, the atmosphere at LAHS was a huge source of my depression. White staff and teachers used the fact that I was openly queer to pressure me into doing things, thinking it would look good for them to have a queer person of color involved in school events. For example, a friend and I were pressured into giving a speech about being queer at a Diversity Assembly even though we were extremely clear that we did not want to do that. Two staff members spent a class period pressuring us into doing it. I faced similar pressure from staff to be on homecoming court even though I really did not want to. I wish I had stood my ground--the experience of being on homecoming court is one I wish I could erase from my memory. There are so, so many problematic things that happen as part of that process (or at least did when I was at LAHS), from forced heterosexual couplings, to a white cis woman on staff telling us that if we were “women” we had to wear a dress. The court was overwhelmingly full of white girls who were excited to be there.
Anti-Asian American sentiment at Stanford leaned into the model minority myth. Looking back, I can see so clearly how racism was used at Stanford not only to reinforce white hegemony, but also to deepen lines between different communities of color on campus and keep us from building solidarity with one another.”
-Maya Acharya, Los Altos High School, class of 2015