Temecula Valley High School Racist Graffiti Targets Black Students
An African American student at Temecula Valley High School was targeted with a racist slur in graffiti scrawled across a pair of doors on campus last week, authorities and school officials said.
Solona Husband, a 17-year-old senior, believes the vandalism is retaliation for her protesting in September of a Confederate flag painted onto a student’s parking space and for her activism in the school’s Black Student Union on a campus that is 2.6% African American.
Police said they have identified the 16-year-old boy who wrote the graffiti singling out Husband, and using a racial epithet against blacks to describe her. Riverside County Sheriff’s Department officials said they have recommended misdemeanor vandalism and hate crime charges against the boy.
Husband, who lives in Murrieta, said she wasn’t shocked by the graffiti, but was surprised it mentioned her by name.
“I think it’s the political climate in our country that’s empowering some people to show their racism,” she said Monday, Nov. 25.
This is the latest Inland Empire school incident involving this racial epithet. Earlier this month, five Norco High School students were suspended after two of them wrote the slur on a parked vehicle and another student shot a video of it and shared it on social media. Three students, girls’ volleyball players, were prohibited from playing in the CIF final because of their involvement.
The Temecula incident also comes a month after officials at Carter High School in Rialto, which is predominantly black and Hispanic, said Yucaipa High football players, who were mostly white, hurled racial slurs toward their players.
According to the California Department of Education, Temecula Valley High is 48.9% white, 32.8% Hispanic, 2.9% Asian and 2.6% African-American.
The Temecula Valley student accused of writing the graffiti and drawing male genitalia with a black marker on Wednesday, Nov. 20, on doors by the boys’ gym locker room “will face discipline in accordance with the schools’ legal authority,” Temecula Valley Unified School District spokeswoman Laura Boss said.
Temecula Valley High Principal Allen Williams sent an email to the school community Thursday, Nov. 21, saying the school responded right away “by removing the highly offensive vandalism.”
“Preceding its removal, we learned that a student took a picture of the abhorrent words and it was posted to multiple social media platforms,” he wrote, adding that the staff supported the victim that day.
Williams said the student who wrote the graffiti was going through the disciplinary process and that the school was working with police. He urged everyone to report such issues promptly.
Husband said she first saw the graffiti when a friend texted her a photo of it Wednesday night. The following morning, she and her friend wrote positive messages with a red, erasable marker to cover the graffiti.
“Love not hate,” “Hate speech is not free speech,” they wrote.
But, before doing that, Husband posted a photo of herself standing in front of the graffiti Thursday on Twitter. It showed the slur, her name and several drawings of male genitalia. Husband posed for the photo with a raised fist, wearing a “Black Lives Matter” hoodie. The raised fist, originally a Black Power salute, has come to represent solidarity among oppressed communities.
Husband said she was likely targeted because she spoke out in September against a Confederate flag a student had painted on his senior parking space. Each year, incoming seniors at the high school are given a chance to paint the asphalt on their parking spaces to express their individuality.
Husband said the school painted over the flag after she raised the issue.
Last month, she started a social media hashtag, #TVHSneedschange, encouraging students to share stories about bullying and discrimination on campus.
Husband said she and other students have been at the receiving end of racially insensitive or outright racist behavior several times on campus. She said a teacher last year asked her how she got her hair to be so curly, embarrassing her in front of her classmates.
Husband’s mother, Sharlene Jones-Bush said she’s worried her daughter has become a target because of her activism and said she has yet to get a clear answer from the school about how it handled the incident.
“It seems to me that white students typically get away with a slap on their wrists, but minority students receive harsher punishment (for milder offenses),” she said. “There’s a double standard. We still feel like we have to fight for basic rights.”
White supremacy, xenophobia and intolerance have no place in America, especially in schools, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Los Angeles chapter, said in a Saturday, Nov. 23, statement condemning the graffiti incident.
Ayloush said the act was more than “a juvenile prank.”
“This was a targeted message motivated by hatred and we ask that this crime be investigated and prosecuted as such,” he said.
Jones-Bush said she offered to home school her daughter if she didn’t want to return to campus, but she declined. Husband is headed to Cal State East Bay next fall to double-major in sociology and musical theater.
“She doesn’t feel like she should stop going to school out of fear and I respect that,” her mother said. “I’m going to pray that no harm comes to her.”
The school district aspires to create a safe learning environment for all children, Trustee Barbara Brosch said.
“Personally, as a parent, I’m disgusted by this type of racism,” she said. “When I saw it, I felt sick and I felt heartbroken. I wish the world was a different place. But we cannot control what our students are taught outside of school.”
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