Encinal High School in Alameda is known for its academic rigor, athletic achievements, school pride and diversity. But the recent failure of the school administration to respond to an incident of racial harassment on campus is raising concerns about a lack of cultural sensitivity at the school.
On Dec. 6, a student allegedly left a piece of paper depicting a Ku Klux Klan mask on a Black student’s desk, causing a dispute in the class. According to sources, the teacher sent both students to the office without addressing the issue.
According to a statement released by the district, “School administrators began an investigation and took immediate corrective action,” which included “talking extensively to the students involved, their parents, and staff.”
However, sources who know the student and her family are saying the victim’s parents were not informed about what happened did not learn about the incident until the student returned home.
According to staff members at the school, the incident was swept under the rug and ignored until the victim’s parents filed a police report.
It was not until Dec. 16– more than a week after the incident occurred and just a week before the school is scheduled to close for the holiday break – that the student was finally suspended.
The student who left the illustration of the KKK mask has a history of similar behavior at the school, according to a staff member. Earlier in the school year, he tied a small rope in shape of a noose and gave it to the same student. He was not reprimanded nor was he disciplined by the school, the staff member said.
Barbara Adams, Assistant Superintendent of the Alameda Unified School District, says the district is taking the student’s behavior very seriously. “ It violates school and district policies against discrimination and as such always results in discipline for the students who engage in it,” she said.
Adams insists the school district is handling the case, and school administrators and staff are “planning ways to engage the entire school community in intensive instruction and dialogue on the impact of this situation.”
“This type of behavior is absolutely unacceptable in our schools and our community,” Adams said.
However, another source at the school says that many incidents have taken place at Encinal in recent years that show a lack of sensitivity towards African American students – even from teachers.
One teacher reportedly created a PowerPoint presentation to discuss inappropriate school dress attire. The presentation focused “sagging pants,” commonly associated with Black male students but did not mention “crop tops and short-shorts,” more commonly worn by white female students, according to a staff member.
The culture and the fabric make up of the school must be addressed and changed, said the source.