Oakland community responds in wake of racist message, threat found in school bathroom – The Mercury News
OAKLAND — Concerned parents are calling on school district leaders to address a racist and violent message directed at Black students that was written in an Oakland hills elementary school bathroom.
Parents gathered with elected officials outside Thornhill Elementary School this week, where a week prior someone wrote “Black lives do no matter. Kill ’em all,” frightening parents of students at the K-5 grade school, who were also upset the school did not put out detailed information about the incident sooner.
“My son, being a very strong Black man, was very disturbed,” said parent Mayra Wright, a Black mother of two Black children attending Thornhill who pushed for the disclosure of the language used in the hate speech.
Thornhill Elementary principal, Steven Daubenspetck, has opened an investigation into the incident, as has the Oakland police department. The school has not yet identified the culprit, citing a lack of security cameras as a reason for the delay. Oakland police are also investigating the incident.
“I want to be clear that Thornhill Elementary School denounces hate speech and all language that is intended to be hurtful,” Daubenspetck wrote to families a day after the message was discovered on Oct. 25.
The school’s 4th and 5th grade classes were informed that a racist message had been found, and afterward teachers shared lessons on racist language and the harmful effects they have on the community. But the exact language used in the graffiti was not released till Oct. 28.
Wright said her 10-year-old son, Maleak, became emotionally distraught and asked to be excused to call his mom after he became aware of the bathroom message. Maleak is the only Black student in his class and his mother said it wasn’t the first time he experienced racism at the school. In second grade a student in his class wrote the N-word on a counter, Wright said.
“Three years later we continue to experience hateful messages and racial slurs on campus by students,” Wright said.
Only 10% of Thornhill students are Black.
Roughly 50 people showed up to support Wright and concerned parents and citizens at a rally in front of the school on Thornhill Drive near Montclair in the Oakland hills on Tuesday. The group included State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and council members Sheng Thao and Loren Taylor.
A letter to the Thornhill community sent out by the Oakland Unified School District superintendent’s office on Oct. 28 described the language used as “threatening, ugly, hateful, racist, and violent.”
The letter went on to say that the language used was not shared sooner because of the “aberrant language,” but the district office did so after members of the community asked for the exact wording used.
Oakland police have been contacted, and the investigation remains ongoing. The police department has not provided this news organization with a copy of the police report as of Friday afternoon.
The school is also forming plans that include working with students in each grade to teach them about hatred and racism and provide anti-racist teaching and family listening sessions.
“Our children at Thornhill should matter just as much as the children attending other schools within Oakland,” Wright said.