By McKenzie Jackson/California Black Media
Editor’s note: CBM did not use the student’s name that has been posted to social media in this story.
Parents and students at a Riverside, California high school are outraged over how an area school handled a student’s post on social media. The post displayed another student posing next to a school whiteboard spelling the N-word in what appears to be the game Hangman.
The mother of Hillcrest High School student Danielle Jones in the Alvord Unified School District is upset with the post and how school administration blamed her daughter for reposting the Snapchat photo showing a student proudly displaying the racial slur. Jones said that her classmate is the girl in the photo, both are members of Hillcrest’s 2017 graduation class and Jones said she was also a member of the school’s Associated Student Body (ASB).
Jones’ mother, Tocinda, said parents should have been notified of the Hangman picture when the incident first to place in March 2017 and believes her daughter’s classmate should have faced more punishment than what they heard she received. The mom also wonders why the school waited until the end of the school year to further discipline the students involved.
Jones and her friends said the school gave the girl in the photo a slap on the wrist by taking away her ASB activities events that were concluded for the year and removing her from the May 31 graduation speaker’s list. Jones said the punishment did not go into effect until after her Twitter post displaying the former Hillcrest student grinning next to the inflammatory word was shared online.
“We expected more,” Jones said. “We expect them to protect our kids from attacks like this. It’s not ok. I think they should have notified the parents. They did none of that.”
Alvord USD spokesperson Cynthia Shipley wrote in an email on May 31 that the school district does not tolerate racial discrimination.
“Any discriminatory actions on campus will be treated extremely seriously, and allegations of discriminatory remarks will be fully investigated and addressed,” she stated. Alluding to the Hangman photo, Shipley wrote, “ school officials have investigated and addressed the issue. However, due to student privacy rights, the district cannot disclose what measures were taken.”
Jones said the photo was “snapped” to social media in March. The teenager said some of her friends saw the image and were offended. They took a screenshot and forwarded it to her. Jones, who was a part of the valedictorian court and is set to attend New York University on a full scholarship next fall, felt compelled to address the issue with the school’s administration.
The student’s March 24 email to school leaders read: “It’s a shame you let [a] clearly racist student be a leader of your student body. I hope something is actually done this time as opposed to actions taken against students practicing hate speech in the past. Racism at any level should not be tolerated.”
Jones said her email was never answered.
She said her father, Kevin Jones, was extremely upset when he learned that school officials seemed to investigate his daughter—rather than investigate the photo—and didn’t respond to her message because they didn’t know who sent it.
“They were investigating who sent the email instead of who was in the picture,” he said.
Jones’ parents were not aware of the incident until after a school administrator asked their daughter to take down her post of the picture on Twitter. Jones said she refused to take down her post since she was not informed of the schools official’s actions.
As of June 1, another Twitter user, claravelarde13, May 27 post of the Hangman photo that identified the students was still making the rounds on the social media site.
Jones’ dad said he attempted to setup a meeting with school officials after his daughter was confronted about her Twitter post but became frustrated that school officials were not more accommodating to meeting immediately after his request.
The Hillcrest principal Dr. Sherri Kemp emailed Kevin Jones on May 24, “I can assure you that actions were taken to address this issue when the email was sent, as were further actions taken today.
However, Jones was also annoyed that school officials would never answer his question to why parents weren’t notified. His wife said the school’s actions are not acceptable.