Authorities are investigating spray-painted racist and homophobic slurs at San Dieguito Academy High School in Encinitas on New Years Day, an incident that has sparked demands to end discrimination in the school, district and town.
This was at least the third incident of hate graffiti on a campus in the San Dieguito Union High School District this school year.
In a press conference that turned into a rally at the Academy of San Dieguito on Monday, around 150 people – students, parents and other members of the community – condemned the latest incident and demanded changes.
They were holding signs that read, “Stop the hate” and “All students deserve to feel safe.” ”
Several speakers criticized the school district, which held a separate press conference at around the same time on Monday, saying the district had not listened to demands from students and others and had not taken action to prevent acts of hatred.
Speakers also said the latest incident was the product of problematic culture.
“We’re not at all shocked or surprised,” said Robin Sales, a member of Show Up for Racial Justice North County San Diego, of the latest incident.
District officials said whoever painted the slurs will suffer the consequences.
“We completely condemn these actions,” Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward said at a press conference Monday. “We understand that the San Dieguito Union school district is not perfect. We know that we also have problems with racism, “-isms” and religious problems. We are well aware of this. Because of this awareness, we have put in place different steps to help us become our next best selves. “
According to surveillance footage, the incident happened just before 4 a.m. on Saturday when a person wearing a beanie, hoodie and mask entered the campus and, with a can of spray paint in hand painted the insults on the outside of a building, said James-Ward.
It is difficult to see the person’s face in the pictures because of the cap and mask, she said, but officials believe she is a young person due to the “movement and the movement “of the person. James-Ward said the district plans to purchase more and better security cameras that will help the district identify future culprits.
The district reported the incident to the county sheriff’s department, which launched a hate crimes investigation. Lt. Amber Baggs, a spokesperson for the department, said no suspects were identified on Monday.
“This is totally unacceptable,” Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said at Monday’s rally at the Academy of San Dieguito. “There is no place in this city for that kind of hate.”
James-Ward said district workers painted the graffiti at 1 p.m. Saturday. But not before someone took pictures of the insults.
Community activist Tasha Williamson shared two photos of the insults on social media on Saturday night, highlighting the incident.
“San Diego County hasn’t changed! Our children are going back to school in Encinitas, where there is racist and LGBTQ trauma, ”she wrote. on Twitter. “We continue to be subjected to LGBTQ racism and hatred generation after generation.”
The San Dieguito Union School District, located in the affluent northern coastal county suburb, serves 13,000 middle and high school students. The majority of the students are white, but the neighborhood has become increasingly diverse in recent years. In 2014, 33% of students were people of color. Last year, 42% were people of color.
Currently, about 58 percent of the district’s students are white, 17 percent are Asian, 16 percent are Latino, 7 percent are multiracial, and less than 1 percent are black.
Since fall 2020, some San Dieguito students have called for the district to do more to embrace diversity. Suggestions include at least one book in every English class written by a person of color and the experience of people of color, add text on race, systemic racism and white supremacy, and provide more services mental health issues to students.
James-Ward, who has served as superintendent since Nov. 1, said the district is working to combat racism and cultivate an inclusive environment.
She highlighted several district initiatives, including ethnic student clubs and diversity and equity efforts among school student groups, as well as training on diversity, equity and inclusion. for employees and a new district station that will investigate complaints about racism.
“We know there is a problem, but we are working to fix it,” James-Ward told the Union-Tribune in an interview on Sunday night. “We know we won’t change overnight, but we are on the road and will continue on this road.”
Last month there was an incident at Torrey Pines High School, which is in the same neighborhood as San Dieguito Academy, when swastikas were found painted in the boys’ bathrooms. James-Ward said a student was responsible, but did not disclose the consequences, if any, that this student faced.
For the Academy of San Dieguito, the latest incident marked the second time that a racial insult has been painted on campus property. In November, someone tagged the n-word at school. This person has not been identified, but James-Ward said school officials did not believe he was a student.
“The writing is on the wall,” said Jill Lax, a retired San Dieguito Academy teacher on Monday. “This is what we have been for decades. Ask any colored alumnus why they don’t want to come back and teach.
Among those who attended Monday’s rally was Jason Stewart, head coach of the boys’ basketball team. He said he thought he and an assistant coach were the only two black employees at the school.
“I think we have to be intentional in hiring,” Stewart said in an interview, adding that it’s important to normalize blacks and browns in “positions of influence,” especially in schools.
While the graffiti was no longer visible on Monday, the pain and frustration persisted.
“You can’t hide the pain these students will endure their entire lives,” said Rob Jenkins, NAACP vice president for North San Diego County.