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After racist videos circulate at a Roseville high school, parents call for honest conversation about the N-word | #students | #parents

Disclaimer: This story includes racist, offensive and profane language.

Right before spring break at Oakmont High School in Roseville two Snapchat videos spread through student networks — both made by separate white students saying the N-word. 

Then one of the white students behind one of the videos was jumped.

While school district officials say the videos and subsequent fight were unacceptable, some parents argue the situation underscores the need for an honest conversation about the N-word, slurs and anti-Black racism. 

Robert Hasty, the Executive Director of Personnel Services for Roseville Joint Unified High School District, said all of the students involved were disciplined. He would not disclose any specifics. 

In cases where physicality is involved, Hasty said punishment is “usually a suspension and [the district will] work with law enforcement for assault charges if [the] family files charges.”

The videos were described as “free speech,” which limited what the school could do. 

​​In one video, students are heard mocking George Floyd, the Black man whose murder by Minneapolis police sparked worldwide protests. One student is heard saying Floyd’s first name was “penis” and another student says “f**k you, too, n***er.” 

In a separate video, a different student says, “We’re hella twinning. Black shirts save lives. I hate n***ers, though.” 

Veronica Andrade, whose son is an incoming junior at Oakmont, says she heard more parent concern about the student who was jumped than about the racism that preceded the fight and has permeated throughout the school. She added that she hoped for a firmer response from school officials articulating the harm behind non-Black people using the N-word. 

“I do not at all condone the fact that a little girl was jumped — that was horrible,” she said. “But I don’t understand why they’re setting kids up to fail on both sides by not being specific about how harmful and hurtful it is” to use the N-word as a non-Black person.
After the two racist videos circulated, Oakmont released messages telling parents they are the “eyes and ears of what happens outside school hours” and asking students to “avoid the pitfalls of social media” because the school was not responsible for supervising students outside of school-related events. 

While the first video was circulated on a Monday, the school did not send out a message until the following Wednesday. 

The N-word was not mentioned in either message. Instead, the comments were characterized as “inappropriate” and “racially offensive.” 

“Our school culture promotes inclusiveness and acceptance, and denounces any form of discrimination, whether it’s on or off campus, in-person or online, or said ‘in jest’,” reads the letter sent out in response to the first video. “Simply put, it is unacceptable.” 

‘It takes a village to educate and grow students’

Oakmont is no stranger to anti-Black incidents. In 2014, 13 teenagers faced hate crime charges for sprinkling cotton balls across the lawn of a Black student.

Hasty was the school’s principal at the time. He did not respond to a CapRadio question about the incident. 

Brad Basham, former executive director of personnel services, told FOX40 after the racist cotton ball incident that the school’s administration was “taking measures, including working with student leadership groups, teachers, and parents, to ensure their campus is safe and welcoming for all students.” 

The district also set up forums at the school for people to share their experiences.

Like its district, Oakmont is made largely of white students. During the 2021-22 school year, 48% of Oakmont students were white and just 3% were Black. Of the students RJUHSD served this year, 3% were Black while 54% were white. 

Andrade said her son — who is half-Mexican, half-Black — experienced an incident at Oakmont during which he talked with a teacher about being called the N-word, only to be met with the response, “maybe you were acting like one.”

“It’s ridiculous that he went to adults and they were completely dismissive about it,” she said. “You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to decide how that affects somebody or doesn’t affect somebody.”  

Darryl White Sr, chair of the Black Parallel School Board, spoke with concerned parents about actions they could take in response to the videos, urging them to stay connected to the principal while understanding the limitations of the position and putting pressure on the district board for action. 

Since 2008, the Black Parallel School Board has operated parallel to the Sacramento City Unified School District board to support the educational growth of Black students in the district. White, as its chair, has spoken with equity managers from Sacramento County school districts, like Elk Grove Unified, Folsom Cordova Unified and San Juan Unified, about how best to support Black students. 

“No one wants to get put in a position where the assumption is that you’re racist,” he said. “The weight of that label by itself is enough for people to go underground. But we don’t want our white parents to go underground. We want them to be above ground and to talk about those issues.” 

White, formerly a high school principal in SCUSD, said he also dealt with off-campus racist incidents as a principal. But he also said he thinks district officials still need to respond to those incidents proactively. 

Hasty with the district said it’s important that parents have “active participation” as partners with the school to help students understand “how their words and actions can deeply hurt others.”

“We clearly address that this type of behavior is not ok and we denounce it….in all forms,” Hasty wrote in an email. “It takes a village to educate and grow students, citizens, and just plain good humans.” 

Schools in Sacramento region struggle to address anti-Black racism

The incident at Oakmont isn’t an outlier.

Parents across the country have been mobilizing at school board meetings, sending hostile emails to educators and in some cases harassing Black educators out of their jobs, all in the name of taking Critical Race Theory out of schools.

Critical Race Theory, which looks at systemic racism’s impact on American laws and institutions, has gained national attention after a summer of protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism in 2020. Critical Race Theory is not taught in K-12 schools.

Chalkbeat found 36 states took measures to restrict education on racism, bias and their impacts on U.S. history, as of Feb. 2022. 

More locally, SCUSD hired civil rights attorney Mark Harris this year as its first race and equity liaison to assist with investigating racial incidents. The hiring came after a teacher at Kit Carson International Academy used the N-word in class.

Also this year, persistent anti-Blackness toward former West Campus Vice Principal Dr. Elysse Versher forced her to announce her resignation. She sued SCUSD and the West Campus principal, claiming a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and intentional inflictment of emotional distress. 

Meanwhile, Elk Grove Unified is currently investigating racist graffiti written on Monterey Trail High School in May.  

White says he wants districts to be more transparent about the investigation process surrounding discriminatory incidents as well as bring in “a constituency to review the data that’s been provided and assist with what the outcome is going to be.”

“Really, it’s not a district problem, it’s a community problem, and the district is one player in that problem,” he said.

Andrade echoed that adults — both district officials and parents alike — need to be active educators about anti-Black racism. 

“I also chalk a lot of it up to the adults that are not putting in the work to educate the kids about how we shouldn’t go there — period,” she said, adding that real change needs to happen before the new school year begins.

But while adults work to take responsibility, she’s also hoping the videos can be used as a learning experience for the students who made them.  

“The kids are gonna grow up,” Andrade said, “and hopefully, they’re gonna be like, ‘I’m so embarrassed, I can’t believe I said that, I shouldn’t have, I was just a stupid kid.’”

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