A parent in the Santa Barbara Unified School District said during public comment Tuesday that her son was called the “n-word” by other students during class at Santa Barbara Junior High. The students also allegedly kneeled on his head and neck while saying, “George Floyd.”
Santa Barbara Unified responded with a ParentSquare message Tuesday night: “We stand with [the parent] in condemnation of any act of violence on our campuses, in this case hate violence related to a student’s race.”
The assault occurred on February 16, and though Principal Arielle Curry sent a message out to all SBJH families on February 18, a district-wide acknowledgement of the hate crime was not sent out until February 22.
“I feel very unsupported at school right now, and I demand a change take place in schools immediately,” the boy’s mother said.
The boy’s mother (whose name is being withheld at this time to protect the identity of the student) said there have been several incidents of racism against her son by other students, but the most recent incident occurred in the classroom, with students taunting her son with racist name-calling. Then, she said during a class break, the students began wrestling, which escalated to the other students pinning her son down, kneeling on his neck, and saying, “George Floyd.” The mother contacted the administration, but the only response she got was from the school’s principal, Arielle Curry.
Curry, speaking through district spokesperson Nick Masuda, said the teacher overseeing the children was in the classroom attending to another student when the assault occurred. Masuda also said there had been no prior incidents with the students involved. The district would not confirm if the students were suspended for their actions, only saying “corrective action was taken.”
Community members rallied behind the mother during public comment, lambasting the district for not taking action earlier, or providing more resources to the family of the student who continues to be harassed on campus. Connie Alexander, a co-founder and co-executive director of Gateway Educational Services who has also worked with the student for many years, questioned the district procedure, criticizing the lack of mental-health and safety resources being provided.
“When you do this investigation, you’re going to find you have some work to do,” Alexander said. “We have to get past things that make us feel uncomfortable, and might feel performative. Procedure is important.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on 2/25/22 to include additional information.