Late last month, Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove, Calif., made headlines in one of the worst ways a school can: One of its students, posting a racist rant, had gone viral.
A teenage girl had recorded herself on Snapchat, heart-crown filters and all, grinning into her cellphone camera as she said, “Black people are trash; they need to die,” and “When the police were killing all those black people, I was so happy because I was like, ‘Fuck black people; go die, bitches.’”
The videos were shared on Twitter, where the teen was quickly doxxed. Social media users identified the teen’s name, phone number and high school.
Now one black senior at the high school says that she and other black students had been telling Pleasant Grove High for months that it had serious problems with racism and racist attacks, to little avail.
In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, senior Rachael Francois went in depth about the school’s issues during what has been her “worst” year at school.
Rachael told the Bee that the racist viral video didn’t shock her. She was disappointed, she said, but also relieved.
“All this stuff I’ve been saying is finally coming to light,” she said. “The stuff keeps happening, and the school keeps pushing it under the rug like our school is pitch-perfect, peachy keen, but it’s not, and people need to realize how Pleasant Grove really is.”
In fact, the viral video was one of many racist incidents that have happened at the Sacramento County high school since school started in August.
In September, Rachael says, she was walking home from school when a truck full of white kids, most of them boys, drove past.
“I was just minding my business, and then a car with a group of white kids sticks out their heads and calls me the n-word with a hard ‘r,’ zooms away, and I’m just there like, ‘Well, what do I do?’” she said.
Among the other anti-black attacks Rachael says have happened in this school year alone: Nooses were found hanging from trees at the school’s campus. Another white student ran into the classrooms and said, “Kill all the niggers.” A white student peed on the car of a black teen, who didn’t attend Pleasant Grove, in the school parking lot.
Rachael notes that the student who urinated on the car is still at school.
“I see him every day,” she told the Bee. “I don’t feel safe because all these kids are walking around, and you don’t know what they are going to do next.”
Although many of the incidents Rachael describes appear to involve white students, they’re actually not the majority at Pleasant Grove. White students make up the biggest racial group, at 38 percent, but Asians and Latinx students make up 22.4 percent and 18.5 percent of the student body, respectively.
Black students make up just 6.8 percent of the student population, at 174.
All told, Pleasant Grove is majority students of color—but this hasn’t stopped vile anti-black racism from being a regular occurrence.
A spokesperson from Elk Grove Unified School District, Xanthi Pinkerton, confirmed to the Bee that Rachael and other black students at Pleasant Grove have raised concerns about racism at the school, and claims that the administration has taken steps to remedy the problems, including disciplining some of the students involved.
But Rachael says that her efforts to curtail the problem—which included writing a letter to school faculty and administrators—have made her a target for administrators. Two other black students co-wrote the letter.
“The amount of disrespect black students face at this school is disturbing, and the problem is only getting worse,” the three girls wrote. “You can stop reading here, throw this paper away, or not, but if you do, just realize that you are now aware of the issues that take place inside these walls and are deciding to ignore them.”
The letter, which was sent to faculty and staff in September, also asked that the school notify students about racist attacks on campus and educate its students about racism.
After she shared the letter, Rachael told the Bee, administrators harassed her, saying that she just wanted attention. It’s this tension between her and administrators, she says, that has made the 17-year-old’s senior year at Pleasant Grove the “worst” she’s gone through.
Les Simmons, a pastor who has helped Rachael, says that Pleasant Grove should have heeded the letter—and that the embarrassing viral video, as well as the expulsion of one of its students, might not have happened if administrators had taken the letter seriously.
“There has to be some change in the administration, some change in the staff, to pay attention, to listen and to respond,” Simmons told the Bee. “Asking themselves, ‘What are we doing to wrap our arms around the black community?’ Not just disciplining a person for their comments.”
Read more at the Sacramento Bee.