Spray-painted racial and homophobic slurs at San Dieguito High School Academy
Authorities are investigating after someone spray-painted racial and homophobic slurs at San Dieguito High School Academy in Encinitas on New Years Day, an incident that sparked demands to eradicate discrimination in the school, the district and the city.
This was at least the third incident of hate graffiti on a San Dieguito Union School District campus this school year.
At a press conference that turned into a rally at the San Dieguito Academy on Monday, about 150 people – students, parents and other community members – condemned the latest incident and demanded change.
They held 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 around the same time Monday, saying the district failed to listen to demands from students and others and failed to take steps to prevent acts of hatred.
Speakers also said the latest incident was the product of a problematic culture.
“We’re not shocked or surprised at all,” Robin Sales, a member of Showing Up for Racial Justice North County San Diego, said of the latest incident.
District officials said whoever painted the insults will face the consequences.
“We completely condemn these actions,” Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward said at a news conference Monday. “We understand that the San Dieguito Union School District is not perfect. We know that we have issues around racism, around “-isms”, around religious issues as well. We are fully aware of this. Because of this awareness, we have put in place different measures to help us become our next best selves.
According to surveillance video, the incident happened just before 4 a.m. Saturday when a person wearing a beanie, hoodie and mask entered campus and, with a can of spray paint at hand painted the insults on the exterior of a building, James-Ward said.
It’s hard to see the person’s face in the footage because of the cap and mask, she said, but officials believe it’s a young person based on “movements and movements ” 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 crime investigation. Department spokeswoman Lt. Amber Baggs said no suspects were identified Monday.
“This is totally unacceptable,” Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said at Monday’s rally at San Dieguito Academy. “There’s no place in this town for that kind of hate.”
James-Ward said district employees 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 slurs on social media on Saturday evening, shedding light on the incident.
“San Diego County has not changed! Our children are returning to school in Encinitas where racial hatred and LGBTQ trauma exist,” 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 suburb of North Coast County, serves 13,000 middle and high school students. A majority of 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, approximately 58% of students in the district are white, 17% are Asian, 16% are Latino, 7% are multiracial, and less than 1% are black.
Since the fall of 2020, some San Dieguito students have called for the district to do more to embrace diversity. Among the suggestions are to include at least one book in every English class written by a person of color and about the experience of people of color, to add texts on race, systemic racism and white supremacy, and to provide more mental health services to students.
James-Ward, who has served as superintendent since Nov. 1, said the district is working to fight racism and cultivate an inclusive environment.
She highlighted several district initiatives, including ethnic student clubs and diversity and equity efforts within the schools’ student groups, as well as diversity, equity and diversity training. inclusion for employees and a new district position that will investigate complaints about racism.
“We know there’s a problem, but we’re working to fix it,” James-Ward told the Union-Tribune in an interview Sunday night. “We know we won’t change overnight, but we are on the road and we 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’ toilets. James-Ward said a student was responsible but did not disclose what consequences, if any, that student faced.
For San Dieguito Academy, the latest incident marked the second time a racial slur has been painted on campus property. In November, someone tagged the n-word at school. That person has not been identified, but James-Ward said school officials do not believe it was a student.
“The writing is on the wall,” Jill Lax, a retired teacher from San Dieguito Academy, said Monday. “That’s what we’ve been for decades. Ask any elder of color why they don’t want to come back to teach.
Among those who attended Monday’s rally was Jason Stewart, head coach of the men’s basketball team. He said he believed he and an assistant coach were the only two black employees at the school.
“I think we have to be intentional about hiring,” Stewart said in an interview, adding that it’s important to normalize black and brown people in “positions of influence,” especially in schools.
While the graffiti was no longer visible on Monday, the pain and frustration continued.
“The pain that these students will endure for a lifetime cannot be concealed,” said North San Diego County NAACP vice president Rob Jenkins.
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