Parents of students in the Upland Unified School District packed Baldy View Elementary Tuesday night to voice their frustrations at a district board meeting over a series of alleged racist incidents at Pepper Tree Elementary School.
The controversy stems from racist drawings that a sixth grader is reported to have given a Black classmate.
One of the drawings states, “You’re my favorite monkey,” while another reads “To my favorite cotton picker,” and another depicts a slave.
One by one, parents went to the podium and raised their concerns about issues of racism in the district.
The mother of the student who received the drawings, Marlene Reynoso, broke her silence at Tuesday night’s district board meeting.
“Your statement, the superintendent’s statement, didn’t come out until this was presented to the media,” Reynoso told members of the board. “It wasn’t until I had to get upset and because she continued to be harassed, that I had to pull her from school and the other child still gets to go to school every day.”
Before public comments were allowed, the superintendent delivered an apology, admitting that the district’s response could have been timelier and more transparent.
Parents weren’t notified about the racist incident, which occurred on Feb. 2, until two weeks after it happened.
The superintendent added that they are reopening an investigation into the matter.
Many of the parents present on Tuesday night said the incident was not the first time students have experienced racial bullying in the Upland School District and that it probably won’t be the last.
Christopher Newman, a parent who spoke to the board and to KTLA, has a son in the school district.
“He said there was a girl in his class that was calling him a monkey, would say things to him, like, ‘Do you want to see a picture of yourself?’ and show him a picture of a monkey,” Newman said of his son’s experience at school.
As for the offensive, district officials say there were two students involved in the incident. In a statement, the district said in part, “…progressive discipline was enacted and there is a continuing investigation into the incident to determine further district response.”
“It’s not just something that just kids will be kids,” Newman told KTLA. “The image of a monkey is a very specific image that has been used over hundreds of years to dehumanize Black people, to make them seem like they’re inferior and to make Black people feel like they don’t belong in certain environments and an educational setting is one where we can’t have that happen.”
The extent to which the two offending students were disciplined is unknown, but some parents are calling for the pair to be expelled.
Others say this incident should be a teaching moment for Upland Unified, that school staff needs to be proactive and address these types of situations because some parents claim the racial bullying has been going on for far too long in the district.