S.E. Williams, Staff Writer
The letter read, “Thanks, N (word), for the collaboration.” Yes, seeing the N (word) scrawled on a note was disturbing enough; but, for it to come as it did for School Principal Crecia Sims on the heels of previous, racially-specific messages, it warranted more than a dismissive reflection.
The incident occurred at Lankershim Elementary School in Highland. Sadly, this was not the first time racism had raised its ugly head at the school. Disparaging comments had previously appeared on anonymous staff survey forms completed by the Lankershim team at the end of the 2014-15 school year.
Each school year, teachers and staff are given an opportunity to complete a survey as a way to provide anonymous feedback. In the batch of last school year’s surveys, two responses apparently stood out. One comment claimed the school did not need a Black principal. The other could be more accurately described as a complaint—it stressed how Black students were not being suspended as often as they should.
Although the suspension comment was notable, it was also incorrect and an interesting observation for someone associated with the school district to make; particularly when the district had worked diligently since 2013 to reduce its Overall Suspension Rate. In addition, the district had focused on African American students as their Suspension Rate was historically, grossly out of alignment with the rate experienced by the overall student population.
Since 2013, the Suspension Rate for all students in the district decreased from 9.3 percent to 7 percent; for African American students it decreased from 20.3 percent to 16.5 percent—a marked improvement. During the 2013-14 school year, African American students made up 12.07 percent of the Lankershim student body compared to 13.7 percent district wide.
The most recent note was discovered in the school’s staff room on Tuesday, August 18, following a meeting. Such meetings are identified at the school as “collaboration” sessions and are held every Monday to assess a number of key focus areas including student performance, attendance, etc. According to reports, the meeting was routine, there were no red flags—it occurred a day before the note was found.
In an exclusive interview with The Voice, San Bernardino City Unified School District Spokesperson Linda Bardere, explained how the District has an expectation that all students and staff adhere to its Nondiscrimination Policies which prohibit harassment and discrimination. “Unfortunately,” she added, “On August 18, an anonymous message containing a derogatory slur was posted in the staff room at Lankershim Elementary School.”
According to Bardere, “An investigation by the District’s Affirmative Action Office and School Police Department was launched. A thorough, fair, and unbiased investigation is underway.”
When asked whether there have been similar incidents at any other schools in the area she said, “No, this is an isolated incident.” (Although in 2014, a Cajon High School teacher was accused of using a racial slur.)
Parents have expressed varying degrees of shock and dismay when asked about the notes by The Voice. One parent who did not wish to be identified said, “It worries me that someone with such racist feelings, a teacher or whoever it was, could be influencing my children, and not in a good way.“
There is little doubt Principal Sims was the intended target in both cases. School district police are providing security for Sims while the investigation continues and the community waits to learn the outcome of the investigation.
Despite additional probing, Bardere explained, “Our Affirmative Action Complaint Procedures for investigations of discrimination, harassment, or intimidation complaints call for the confidentiality of all parties.“ She added, “Due to the ongoing investigation there will be no further comment.”
Sims was unable to comment on the story; however, as a respected teacher and principal there is no doubt this is far from the kind of attention Sims hoped to garner for Lankershim Elementary School when she took the helm in February.
The Voice will continue to follow this story.