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FUSD Hires PI to Investigate Its Own Investigation of Racist Bullard Photo

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Photo of entrance to Bullard High School
Bullard High School (GV Wire)
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Fresno Unified School District has hired an outside investigator to delve into the district’s in-house investigation of the Bullard High photo in which a student wore a head covering that resembled a Ku Klux Klan hood, district spokeswoman Nikki Henry confirmed Tuesday.

The photograph sparked student protests and walkouts and demands for the Bullard students involved in the photo to be disciplined.

Students and community members say that the photo was just the latest example of a culture of racism and cultural destructiveness in the district.

District officials hope the new investigation will be concluded “in the next few weeks,” Henry said.

She said she could not provide information about how much the investigator is being paid.

“The total cost will depend on the entire scope of the investigation, given that as the investigator gets new information the scope may expand,” Henry said in an email to GV Wire.

The new investigation was commissioned because “there have been a number of concerns that have been expressed by staff regarding the incident specifically, as well as other concerns that were expressed from events/actions directly related to the incident,” she said.

First Investigation Was In-House

The district conducted an investigation into the Bullard High photo, which was shot in the school’s weight room after school earlier this month and shows a student with a pointy white head covering that many people believe was meant to look like a KKK hood. However, Bullard coaches and members of the Bullard community say the teen costumed himself like a Ninja warrior, which they say was his alter ego among his fellow students.

After the photo appeared on social media, a firestorm of outrage erupted among Fresno Unified students and across the Fresno community. Students at Bullard and Edison high schools, led by their Black Student Unions, walked out of classes on May 6, and that afternoon Edison students marched from their southwest Fresno campus to the district’s downtown Education Center in protest.

On that day and subsequent days, students have repeated their demands that the district punish the students who were involved in the photo as well as determine whether they were being supervised in the weight room by a school employee.

Within days of the photo appearing on social media and the student protests, the district announced it was moving forward with disciplining the three students connected with the photo: the student wearing the head covering, the student behind him who pulled part of the head covering up into a point, and the student who shot the photo.

Community members subsequently reported that the three students have been suspended and that the district might be moving forward with expulsion for one or more of them.

GV Wire is not identifying the students because they are minors. To protect the students’ privacy, the district has not revealed publicly whether any discipline has been taken yet.

Trustee Terry Slatic, who represents the Bullard region, said Tuesday on KMJ radio that if the district were to move forward with discipline before hearing the outcome of the second investigation, “people could get sued.”

Slatic and others have said that one of the students has legal representation.

“Is that what is, in fact, part of what is driving the investigation of the investigation, knowing that you’d better cross the t’s and dot the i’s? That is something that only the superintendent of Fresno Unified School District could actually answer with 100% clarity,” he said.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email