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Racist Hate Speech Found at Oakland Elementary Fuels Parents' Concerns

Parents held a rally Tuesday to demand action and accountability from an Oakland school after racist hate speech was discovered in the bathroom of Thornhill Elementary School.

The outcry comes after parents discovered a message written in the girls’ bathroom that read “Black lives don’t matter – kill them all.”

“This is unacceptable,” said Marya Wright, a Thornhill parent. “It is learned behavior at home and it is a threat to society.”

Wright and other parents are calling for more security on campus including police officers, cameras, staff to address students’ mental health needs and more focus on diversity.

“Something needs to happen,” she said. “There is a racial issue that is happening and it’s not just at Thornhill. It is across OUSD,” Wright said.

Travis Pfeifer’s daughter is biracial, and explains safety is at the top of his mind. He spent hours in a listening session Tuesday with school officials, but feels resources are lacking at the school where parents say 10% of students are Black.

“From an OUSD standpoint, I think are under supported,” Pfeifer said. “Thornhill is in a relatively affluent area but it is counterintuitive because that means the Black students here are even more vulnerable,” he said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, said his office is offering support by providing facilitators to Thornhill.

“Once you get to the bottom of the incident, you have to figure out how you are moving forward,” Thurmond said. “The state is available to help in any way we can.”

The Oakland Unified School District immediately took down the graffiti and school officials plan to continue to provide anti-racist teachings, listening sessions and staff professional development.

The district released the following statement in response to the incident:

“OUSD had an incident last week at an elementary school in which hateful and racist graffiti was written on a wall. Staff immediately removed the graffiti, and the principal informed the school community about what had happened. At the same time, the principal and school staff started investigating to determine who might have written the vile and threatening language, and why. Likewise, the District is in contact with Oakland Police regarding the incident.

“This kind of language is unacceptable anywhere in society, especially in our schools. Schools are meant to be warm, welcoming, and inclusive places of learning, where everyone feels protected and loved. This kind of incident erodes that sense of security.

“To facilitate the healing the school community is doing, here are some specific things that we are working on:

  • Continue to provide anti-racist teachings
  • District Supported Family Listening Sessions
  • District increase in noon supervisor time
  • Affinity groups for adults supported by OUSD’s Office of Equity
  • Professional development to support staff

“The District is not repeating the text of the graffiti so as not to give such hateful language greater attention.”

Parents hoping for action said it will take more than words to make them feel safe.

“Healing and all this rhetoric around…let’s just say allyship doesn’t really do anything for me,” Pfeifer said. “I want my kids safe.”

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Source: NBC Bay Area

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