Shades of West Ranch: A movement against discrimination at West Ranch


  Appearing seemingly out of nowhere, Shades of West Ranch took Instagram by storm among the students of West Ranch, releasing claims of discrimination within the school. Mixed reactions began to stir as a divide of students formed: one body reposting and praising the account and the other taking to the comments to engage in conversation. 

    West Ranch seniors, Hannah Chung and Andrea Miron, are the creators behind the famous Shades of West Ranch Instagram account. The two founders wanted to elicit change at the predominantly white school, ensuring equality among students and teachers.

   Inspired by its college-based parallels, Black at Nightingale, Black Spence Speaks, Shades of BH and Shades of Cal Poly, Chung and Miron created the account to “amplify Black, indigenous, Latinx, Asian and LGBTQ+ voices at West Ranch High School and create educational resources regarding how to implement anti-discriminatory practices on personal, communal and global levels,” said Miron. 

      The decision to create the account overnight was made to catch momentum from both the Black Lives Matter movement and the movement for equality as arising issues of discrimination came to light and the circulation of other “Shades of …” accounts began to make their debut on Instagram.  

   By doing so, Miron explained that they want to “initiate local and national conversations on casual racism” to “cultivate fully inclusive and anti-discriminatory multicultural organizations” at the high school, college and corporate levels, according to their mission statement.

   Since posting the Instagram account, the aforementioned students that took to the comments have run into some problems. At first, Miron stated that they left the comments on to “shed more light on the positive comments” with Chung adding that they want to “leave room for people to showcase that this is West Ranch and this is what is happening.” The two then decided to disable the comments when it got to the point where every single post had an argument and they had to minimize the hate. As they realized that having positive commentary was important, they enabled the comments once again. 

   Another issue the two encountered was dealing with fake submissions. Both Chung and Miron vet the submissions themselves. Miron stated, “We wanted to create a 100 percent guaranteed anonymity through google forms.” Since emails are not shown, they themselves had to “filter through which submissions sounded fake. The obvious problem with that is it might have left room for the submissions that were real that did sound fake, but it was a rare case,” Miron explained. Chung went on to add that “it was mostly the stories that invoked reverse racism.”

   The stories posted on the account, under the cover of anonymity, inform readers about instances of racism using first-hand stories. However, acknowledging said racism is only the first step to real change. 

   Chung and Miron’s angle of change starts at a top-down approach where staff and administrators are the facilitators of change and students as well as staff have no tolerance for not only racist behavior but for issues of sexual assult, discrimination and all related topics. Shades of West Ranch’s purpose is to make the first move in order for change to start with the people in power and capable of this change. 

   “The first thing which has definitely happened since the Instagram account came out is aware[ness] of [racism],” explains West Ranch’s AP Human Geography teacher Mrs. Darcy Rojas. “[We can] hear the students’ side, which I know is hard for students in high school to verbalize, [and] students have the courage to speak out about these things. I think making that comfortable situation where they feel they can talk to their teacher or counselor and making it a culture of understanding and listening to one another is important.”

   When asked about whether the Shades of West Ranch account enlightened or opened her eyes to what is happening, Mrs. Rojas replied, “I don’t know if it has enlightened me because I think in terms of the world and just how people interact with each other, I don’t think you can say that any place is free of racial discrimination. I definitely wouldn’t classify myself as someone who thought that this doesn’t happen at West Ranch.” She added, “It did open my eyes to really think about myself as a teacher and some things that I might say, especially being a history teacher because I talk about many cultures and experiences, and making sure that the words I’m using aren’t interpreted as being offensive.”

   AP Chemistry teacher Mrs. Julie Chang believes that Shades of West Ranch has given students a voice and a comfortable environment to speak out in. It “has given students a platform where they can share their experiences and bring to light the negative interactions that they’ve had.” Mrs. Chang remarked, “I think giving students the freedom of anonymity has also enabled some students who normally say nothing to say something. I’m glad that the way they have allowed students to voice themselves has been empowering to students who would not say anything.”

   While Shades of West Ranch has had a prominent effect on student life, it has also brought up some complex issues.

    West Ranch’s principal Mr. Mark Crawford explains, “It is a complicated situation because on one hand, I am glad for the students that came forward and felt like they had something to say. The part that saddens me is that they didn’t feel like they could come to us about the issues. There’s also complications from being anonymous and naming others.” 

  “I’ve seen other accounts and different things out there where people anonymously say stuff about other students whether it’s our campus or other campuses,” Crawford explained. “I know that when someone gets named by someone and they don’t know about whatever it is, it can be tough to work through. There’s no way to fact check anything and there’s not even a way for me to reach out because I don’t know who to reach out to and say ‘Hey, how are you feeling’, ‘I’m sorry this happened’ or ‘What can we do to fix this?’.”

   “All that being said, it did give us time to reflect and take the concerns raised and examine our practices. Ultimately, for me, everything comes down to what I believe education is about. For me, education should always open doors. To allow students to realize their potential, to go on to achieve whatever they desire to accomplish and to prepare them to be good citizens and good people,” reveals Mr. Crawford.

    “I’m not naive to think that us pulling together in West Ranch can solve all racism and discrimination in the world, but it’s important for us to do our part and whatever it is we can do in our community. To make sure all the students have a voice, to feel they have a place, and that they can succeed at West Ranch. Hopefully, with the conversations we are having now and the changes we’ve made and will be making in the future, we will get us to where we want to go,” Mr. Crawford told the Paw Print.

   The two account founders, Chung and Miron, are trying to initiate conversations and change with the account, but are also working further with various school and off-site programs to ensure a transition to an anti-discriminatory setting for students. They are collaborating with other students and creating a curriculum handbook, inspired by the Chicago School District and LAUSD handbook, to cultivate a space where students are learning about their cultures.

   Chung and Miron created the Shades of West Ranch Instagram account as a first pinpoint to change: “We’re not trying to change the world, we’re trying to change Santa Clarita,” they said. “Our culture at West Ranch in particular.”