Fresno Unified plans to double down on teaching students about the many aspects of racism and the urgent need to keep campuses safe, following an uproar over racially offensive social media posts that included a Bullard High student posing in blackface.
District Superintendent Bob Nelson, standing alongside 15 people from inside and outside Fresno Unified, said at a news conference Tuesday that the district led community meetings Monday to address the problem.
“It was incredibly heart-wrenching to listen to the stories of our students who shared their pain, not only about the video but about their ongoing need to feel safe and feel heard,” Nelson said.
First Reported to District by Bullard Student
The offending posts were first reported by a Bullard student on May 24. Freshman Amya Wilson saw the blackface post on Snapchat on May 23. After talking to her mother, she decided to go to the school’s office to report it.
“They were very upset, and as concerned as I was,” said Wilson, who attended the news conference. “They told me it would be handled.”
Nearly a week later, a version of the blackface video, along with a video clip of a student saying a racially offensive word outside what appears to be Bullard High, appeared on Facebook and went viral.
Nelson said Tuesday that “appropriate disciplinary procedures and actions” were imposed against the student Monday. He declined to identify the student, citing federal and district privacy policies.
“We should like cultural competency for students, for staff, for administrators, and the district office,” said Stacy Williams, a community activist who attended the news conference.
Williams also had a hand in bringing the video to light. She said that a student sent her the video last Thursday and she posted it the next day.
Steps Fresno Unified Is Planning
Though Nelson emphasized that racism and cultural insensitivity were not just a problem at Bullard, he laid out initial steps that are planned at the high school.
- Conduct training in cultural sensitivity for the roughly 300 incoming freshmen students at Bullard. The training will happen at a summer “bridge program.”
- Revive a parent advisory board at Bullard that hasn’t existed since 2014.
- Ensure there’s a Black Student Union on campus so “like-minded people can get together to discuss the issues they’re grappling with.”
- Work to double the number of students involved in leadership development.
Parents of Bullard Student Ask for ‘Forgiveness’
Meanwhile, a statement said to be from the parents of the Bullard student who made the racially offensive posts asked for “forgiveness for the pain it has caused.”
According to the statement, the girl was visiting a friend’s home when she painted her face black, then made a video in which she used a racial slur. The video was posted on social media.
“When we learned of this situation, we were distraught,” the statement said. “We know the actions of using blackface and racial slurs are not only offensive and hurtful, but also have originated from a terrible history of oppression against African-Americans. Because of what we teach in our home and the values and faith in God we hold dear, we never thought we would be in a position to see our child say or do something that would cause so much anguish.”
The parents said they “not only imposed consequences in our household, but have submitted to the consequences given by both the school and the district last week.”
A counselor is meeting with the family for training on cultural sensitivity, the statement said.
(GV Wire’s David Taub contributed to this story.)