A racist bullying incident at Pepper Tree Elementary School in Upland, CA, causes community concern.
A racist bullying incident at Pepper Tree Elementary School in Upland, CA, causes community concern. Credit: pt.upland.k12.ca.us


Racist bullying incidents involving Black students at a school in Upland has caused great concern in the community.  Most recently, racist drawings were given to a sixth grade girl in a Pepper Tree Elementary School classroom. One of the drawings stated “You’re my favorite monkey,” and another read “To my favorite cotton picker.”  

“I want to make it perfectly clear that we have a strict zero-tolerance policy on any type of hate speech [or] harassment,’ said Upland USD Board President Sherman Garnett a few weeks after. 

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Upland students have experienced racism. Just last year, a teacher was placed on leave after making anti-Asian comments during Lunar New Year celebrations at another school in the district.

According to an initial report, parents of students at the school are demanding action after it was discovered that this type of harassment has been ongoing.

“To: my favorite cotton picker,” reads one of the offensive notes given to a student at Pepper Tree Elementary (source: screenshot by S.E. Williams via WGN9 on YouTube.com).

“I’m hoping that the district does not brush this under the rug as they’ve brushed issues under the rug in the past,” said the school’s PTA president, Robin Allen. “We want to know what zero-tolerance means. This is not the first time a situation like this has happened. It’s not going to be the last time that this situation happens, but the most important thing is our response to the situation,” she said.

“Your my favorite monkey,” was written on another note given to a Pepper Tree Elementary student. (source: screenshot by S.E. Williams via WGN9 on YouTube.com).

In response to the harassment and the ensuing criticism, the Upland Unified School District (UUSD) released a statement reaffirming its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). 

The district clarified that the behavior was not part of any classroom assignment or activity and that they have taken disciplinary action and are investigating the incident further. UUSD says it remains committed to creating positive change and ensuring equitable learning for all students through ongoing efforts.

The UUSD has implemented several initiatives to promote DEI values, including revising policies on bullying, establishing an equity task force, and providing ongoing training to administrators and staff on restorative practices and positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS). Additionally, the district has established an inclusion task force to address the needs of students with disabilities and promote inclusive environments. 

The district has also taken steps to increase its diverse workforce, promote cultural proficiency, and celebrate diversity through cultural celebrations and learning experiences. They have adopted a social-emotional learning curriculum that includes lessons on diversity and anti-racism and established wellness centers at all 14 school sites to provide social-emotional support to students. The district has several planned initiatives, such as inviting teachers to equity institutes, establishing a community advisory committee representative of diverse community members, and sending another cohort of educators on the Footsteps to Freedom Historical Empathy Tour in Summer 2023. 

“These initiatives are just the beginning. Our community deserves nothing less, and we remain committed to listening to their feedback and concerns as we work together to create positive change,” said Liz Pinney-Muglia, Communications Director at UUSD.

An informational fact sheet regarding these events can be viewed here.

Asante-Ra is a versatile writer committed to delivering informative and engaging content. They are a voracious media consumer, and lifelong learner passionate about science, health, gender diversity, accessibility, racial equity, and civic participation. They have a broad range of interests including society, culture, popular education, history, human sexuality, romance, comedy, poetry, and exploring topics such as indigeneity, world religions, mythology, astrology, and Blackness.