Lokii Reis speaking at the Las Lomas Reform Now rally on July 23rd, 2020
by Caroline Johnston
Graphic by Jane Wilson
On June 18, 2020, a currently active Instagram page titled laslomasreform surfaced. Their posts target alleged problems on the Las Lomas campus that have affected students, teachers, administration, and parents in the past months since its creation.
The Acalanes Union High School District completed a private investigation in response to the allegations on the Las Lomas Reform Instagram page. (To read about this report, please read our article on page 6.) Senior Dani Luna said, “I am somewhat supportive of Las Lomas Reform because some of the allegations turned out to be true,” in response to the investigation and its results. ASB President Campbell Zeigler said, “I’m glad that there was an investigation and that actions were taken to make LL a better place.”
The drama department has been directly affected due to the accounts’ calling for Taron Hensley’s resignation and then his subsequent indefinite leave. (Again, please refer to our article on page 6.) Senior drama student James Moore spoke about transitioning to a new teacher: “The transition will be difficult, but I truly believe it is necessary in order to make the drama community a more positive and comfortable place.” In response to this investigation, Las Lomas principal Tiffany Benson said in an email, “Please know that the safety and well being of our students is always the top priority.”
According to the account’s Instagram bio, Las Lomas Reform aims to bring change to Las Lomas High School and the Acalanes Union High School District by “organizing for the permanent institutional and cultural reform of AUHSD to protect BIPOC and marginalized identities from enduring trauma on campus.” The group uses an anonymous reporting system whereby students, alumni, or others can submit their allegations about mistreatment at Las Lomas, which are then posted on the Instagram page. None of these stories get verified and many of the allegations regard sexual assault, harassment, and racial discrimination; The Page contacted the owners of the account, and they worked on responses together instead of providing their names. They said they started the Instagram page because “we kept hearing the same types of alarming stories – about racism and sexual misconduct – from BIPOC students and students of marginalized identities. We knew that urgent action was needed to reform the system and culture of AUHSD.”
There are many pages like Las Lomas Reform, at schools such as Stanford University, Northgate High School, Alhambra High School, and Miramonte High School, all of which use an online platform to bring change to their schools.
With over 1,600 followers on Instagram, Las Lomas Reform seems to have a substantial amount of student support, but not so much teacher support. The Page contacted more than ten teachers for an interview and most responded, but declined to comment, some saying it was due to district limitations. According to teacher sources who wish to remain anonymous, the Acalanes Education Association (the teachers’ union) has “urged members not to make any statements without representation.” Also according to some responses, teachers are currently in fear of their jobs and reputations.
Las Lomas Reform said, “We have received support from the California Department of Education, the ACLU, and multiple attorneys. We are not advocating alone. We have built community, accountability, and safety with our audience.” The Page could not verify this. Some students think that the group created a community where people feel safe to share their experiences. Agreeing, an anonymous student, Student #1, said, “Las Lomas Reform is the most dependable wellness center. It’s therapeutic when having a traumatic thing happen to you to share that with students your age, and who experience similar stuff.”
Las Lomas Reform has not kept to Instagram. On June 23, 2020, the group held an open-mic rally in front of Las Lomas. Sophomore Justine Weingartner attended this rally and said, “It was really important for these students to speak up and be vulnerable in order to make these issues more known.” An anonymous student who attended the rally, Student #2, said, “I think it was very powerful to have that many students all sharing and it was very emotional to see how brave people were and to hear these terrible stories that didn’t get taken seriously before.”
Diablo Valley Solidarity, a local activist group that includes Black Lives Matter organizers and Las Lomas students, livestreamed the event through their Instagram account. Las Lomas Reform said, “The LLRN (Las Lomas Reform Now) rally put student endangerment in the public eye and pushed AUHSD to finally fulfill their legal duties.”
Not all Las Lomas students fully agree with Las Lomas Reform and how it is trying to accomplish its goals, though. Junior Shealyn Hyde said, “I did support [Las Lomas Reform] in the beginning when it was for the good of the students and was all about positivity; unfortunately now when I look at the page, all I see is hate.” One student, Student #3, said, “I admire how hard they work to find quotes and all other types of information, and how successful they are at it…On the other hand, I think that in almost every case, they fail to provide sufficient proof for their accusations and sufficient logic behind their conclusions,” and later went on to say that, “It seems like they just got carried away and are no longer trying to help in a positive way but instead trying to satisfy their own vendetta against what they’ve imagined the school district staff have done or want to do.”
An anonymous Las Lomas parent said, “I do not think that social media is the best environment to create effective change. However, we are in a complicated time in which students are using social media to reach others and get their voices heard.”
People sharing their stories of sexual assault is not just a local phenomenon, but a worldwide movement, commonly known as the #MeToo movement. A report published by Chicago Unbound said, “#MeToo had spawned the creation of new kinds of informal reporting channels…These channels amplify accusations of abuse by reaching wider communities and aiming for more ambitious ends.” Las Lomas Reform is one of these new informal reporting channels.