Elk Grove Unified School District Race Relations Forum Draws Large Audience, Unflattering Picture of Schools Painted

Trustees of the Elk Grove Unified School District hear complaints about unequal treatment of African American
students at the forum on education equality and race relations held at Sheldon High School. |   
January 17, 2018 | 

In a marathon meeting held last night at the performing arts center of Sheldon High School that lasted over five hours, Elk Grove Unified School trustees heard comments from over 60 people that painted an unflattering picture of race relations of the district they preside over.

The community forum on race relations and education equality came in the aftermath of a hate video posted on social media by a Pleasant Grove High School student over the Christmas holiday that generated international attention. The hate video, which was not published using district equipment or during class time, drew further attention when Pleasant Grove student Rachael Francois posted a video describing numerous racial incidents directed at African American students at the school.

During this evening's forum many of the comments were directed at Pleasant Grove, but other schools were also criticized. Several African American district employees, including several from the Sacramento Sheriff's Department who contracts with the district for security, also claimed bias in employment practices.

After comments by EGUSD board President Nancy Chaires-Espinoza, the first of the over 60 speakers was Lorreen Pryor of the Black Youth Project who set the tone by saying she was "disgusted and appalled" with the continued mistreatment of African American students by administrators.  Pryor also said Pleasant Grove administrators and trustees were complicit in the ongoing discrimination. [audio is posted below].

To remedy this, Pryor said the Black Youth Project would track racial incidents and advocate for students and their families.

"We at the B-L-P will be part of the solution; we will now function as the hub for all complaints of this nature," Pryor said. "We will track complaints; we will walk alongside parents and guardians to address concerns with you."

While many of the speakers were parents of students at Pleasant Grove High and other district schools, there was a former student who spoke of conditions at the school when she attended over 10 years ago. This student said based on her treatment at Pleasant Grove, and that during her first year there a race riot occurred, she decided to attend a historically black university so she could study without fear of racial mistreatment.

"Our voices were not heard, our voices silenced," Kia Brown said. "I am speaking for people in my class who said it was a joke and nothing would change."

Referencing a published story, Brown also took aim at EGUSD spokesperson Xanthi Pinkerton. Reading a story by Sacramento Bee reporter Diane Lambert, Brown recited the quote in which Pinkerton was quoted saying “In this particular instance there was a heightened sensitivity or awareness about it because of the video. If I tell you to look at all the red cars, suddenly all you see is red cars.”

Brown said "This sound extremely dismissive, and this is your spokesperson."

While Pleasant Grove High was the focus of most complaints, problems at Cosumnes Oak High School also surfaced. One mother, who is also an elementary school principal in the Elk Grove District described an incident were her son, who attends Cosumnes Oaks was roughly handled by Sacramento County Sheriff's at the campus for a rules violation.

"He was picked-up by a 300-pound sheriff, standing at six-two [six feet two inches in height], he was thrown across the vice principals desk into a wall and fell to the ground in the presence of an Elk Grove administrator," Michelle Murphy said. "No crime, no violations of the California Penal Code had been committed, and there was no reason for two police officers to already be sitting in the room when my son walked in." [see the video of Murphy's comments before the EGUSD on November 7, 2018].

Among other elected officials in attendance was California Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D -Elk Grove) who acknowledged the problems and noted they were a function of the discourse coming out of Washington DC. Cooper also praised Ms. Francois saying she was the subject of many favorable conversations at the State Capitol. 

Also speaking was Elk Grove Vice Mayor Darren Suen, who said he was accompanied by three of his city council colleagues including Steve Detrick, Pat Hume, and Stephanie Nguyen. The Elk Grove city government has also been rocked by several racial incidents which the city council has been addressing through a number of means including recent community forums.

Referencing several requests in those forums that the city and school district should work together to come up with a holistic approach to address race issues, Suen noted their mutual challenges.   

"As one of your peers, we have work to do," Suen said. "We are ready to partner with you in making Elk Grove a no place for hate city." 







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