Over 2,000 students at Berkeley High School in California walked out of their classrooms last week to protest a racist message posted to a computer. Jill Tucker and Jenna Lyons report for the San Francisco Chronicle that a student admitted to posting a message that included references to the Ku Klux Klan and a “public lynching.”
School officials are calling this a hate crime and say they will not tolerate such language in the Berkeley community. About 2,000 of the 3,000-student school population marched from the school to the downtown area and then to UC Berkeley. Berkeley police officers and school administrators accompanied the students.
A Berkeley school district spokesperson said the school was doing everything possible to find out what exactly took place. Officials found the message on one computer in the library, but the incident did not appear to be a hacking event.
As the students marched they chanted, “We got that unity!”, and “Say it loud, I’m black, and I’m proud!”
“I think it’s really dehumanizing how they targeted one race,” Marshatta Porter, an 11th-grader, said. “It’s 2015. It’s ridiculous.”
Black Student Union students called the message an act of terrorism. In a widely dispersed statement, they said:
“The perpetrator sympathizes with the racist cause of the KKK and makes a clear threat to lynch Black students this Dec. 9. The terrorists call for the death of Black people in the message,”
Principal Sam Pasarow said the student is aware of the disturbance that was caused by his posting and will face serious consequences, writes Niraj Chokshi of The Washington Post. Pasarow added that he was a leader who believes in reparation in lieu of traditional discipline.
The computer posting is not the first such incident on campus. In October 2014, school officials found a noose hanging from a tree, and in the spring, the school yearbook was changed to say that a group of minority students were the “trash collators of tomorrow.” The school was forced to distribute stickers to place over the text.
KTVU-TV was told that the student who created the post and confessed to the action is a male freshman at the school. The president of the senior class said that the incident was representative of a racial divide at Berkeley High.
The authorities are reviewing the case and expect that it will be turned over “to juvenile probation,” Berkeley police Officer Byron White said.
“Our school is where were supposed to feel safe,” said Kaylynn McCoy, 17. “On the streets, blacks already don’t feel safe because of police brutality so … it feels like they attacked the whole community.”
Tracey Taylor, Lance Knobel and Emilie Raguso, writing for Berkeleyside, say the demonstration and the march through Berkeley went smoothly with no arrests or disturbances. Pasarow gave credit to the organizers of the rally for keeping the experience focused and peaceful.
Pasarow plans to hold an assembly for the entire school on December 9, the day the post writer threatened to have a lynching, to honor African-American contributions to society.