UPLAND, Calif. - It’s a lesson in bigotry no one should have to learn as a child, but parents of several Black sixth graders at Pepper Tree Elementary in Upland said their kids have been the targets of racial bullying. They told FOX 11 a group of five or six schoolmates handed out handwritten and hand-drawn cards calling them "my favorite monkey," or in one case a "cotton picker" and promising "the group" would be nice to them for Black History Month.
Rome Douglas said his daughter got a card reading "you’re my favorite slave," with a depiction of a slave hanging from a tree. He said his daughter is only 12 years old, and her twin brother has also been taunted with monkey sounds. Douglas said the racial bullying has been going on for about two weeks, and started when a group of sixth graders told her they’d give her a back rub for Black History Month.
"Then one if the girls chimed in, ‘Well, you’re only half Black, so maybe only half the month,’" Douglas said, adding it had gotten so bad his twins were seeking refuge in a teacher’s classroom during recess. He’s now keeping them home. "It no longer seems safe," he said.
According to Douglas, teachers were aware of the harassment. Now he said he wants better training.
This past Friday, Upland Unified School Board of Education President Sherman Garnett posted a video in which he promised the district has a zero tolerance policy for this behavior and said the district was following state rules for discipline.
"Recent racially insensitive, unacceptable incidences have taken place at our schools," Garnett said. "We deeply regret the hurt that this behavior has caused our family and community."
"They need to define those terms," said Robin Allen, the PTA President. She said she wants to know what the district means by "zero tolerance." She said her Black children at the school are younger, and have thankfully not experienced racial bullying, but wanted to make sure that the matter is being adequately addressed. "Some parents thought that zero tolerance meant it wouldn’t happen again, and they’d be expelled. I don’t think we can start there because they are kids," she said.
But, she wants the district to be more transparent. "Are the disciplines you are administering enough to deter the kids and rehabilitate the kids, and have them move forward and promote a healthy school environment?"