A silver lining

Important conversations are resulting from racially motivated incidents

A few weeks ago, the CN&R chided Chico High School officials for their response to the concerns of a local multiracial family involved in a racially charged incident between them and some teenagers who attend the school. This week, we commend the administration.

It was a complex story, and as it turns out, we didn’t have a full picture of the scope of the flap, so we’re setting the record straight this week (see “Flag flak,” Newslines). Reporter Ken Smith’s original story noted how the incident allegedly started with a confrontation over a Confederate flag and some racial slurs and ended with a Confederate flag staked in the family’s front yard, a threatening act and hate crime. However, we later learned that the initial incident appears to have escalated into a violent altercation between the kids and some unknown adults.

There’s no evidence that either party—neither the family nor the teenagers—were directly involved in the two crimes. But it’s hard to imagine that the incidents aren’t related, and we’re disappointed that this skirmish led to such extreme behavior. We hope the Chico Police Department determines exactly what happened and who is responsible.

In the meantime, there’s a silver lining here. We said Chico High should use the incident as a teachable moment, and that’s exactly what’s happening. According to Principal Jim Hanlon, it’s started many conversations on the campus about free speech and offensive behavior, given the history of the Stars and Bars. In fact, Hanlon has encouraged teachers to discuss the issue and, as he put it, “talk with students about confusing the right to do something with whether or not it’s the right thing to do.”

This newspaper knows the importance of free speech. We rely on the protections of the First Amendment to carry out our work. But we also value civility and respect, and we’re glad to see that this situation appears to be heading in that direction.