SF Board President Gabriela López, SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews, and Lowell High School Principal Dacotah Swett Condemn Racist and Offensive Content on School’s Virtual Bulletin Board
San Francisco (January 21, 2021) - On the afternoon of January 20, 2021 the administration at Lowell High School was notified that a technology platform called Padlet -- which was used by the school to share student reflections on one of a series of anti-racist lessons -- contained racist, anti-Semitic and pornographic images and speech. This Padlet served as a virtual bulletin board that school administrators believed could only be added to by staff members on the school’s Coordinated Care Team.
Administrators immediately deactivated the Padlet and notified the SFUSD Department of Technology (DOT). The DOT is investigating what happened and tracing the origin of the offensive posts. Administrators sent a letter to all students and families about the incident and invited anyone with information to come forward. Administrators also shared that counselors and wellness staff were available with drop-in hours for students to share their thoughts and feelings related to the offensive posts.
SF Board of Education President Gabriela López shared this message:
“On the same day that we were offered some semblance of hope or renewal, our very first Black female Vice President taking the oath of office, our students are dealing with a system that allows for such blatant racism to run rampant in our schools. Students at Lowell High School had to endure yet another attack during an Anti-Racism lesson facilitated by Lowell where many students participated in a public online platform to share honest and thought provoking responses. What they saw instead were pornographic images, slurs, and other hateful comments.
My immediate response is how sickening this all is, that our young people have to be the ones who deal with this. This incident is unfortunately not an isolated one and is an indication of the deeper problems our District must address. In 2016, students staged a walkout after the administration failed to address racist imagery posted in the school. Their demand remains unmet five years later. This past fall, we witnessed more of this behavior, a Black student leader was shouted down while making comments during a Board meeting and later targeted with threats and hate speech online.
As a district, we are called upon to address the anti-Black racism in our schools and especially those with selective enrollment They can no longer be “breeding grounds for racism” as students described.
Education is the opportunity we all have to end hate and bigotry. Our students are telling us this must end, and we can no longer stand idly by without responding with concrete action. On behalf of our students, their list of asks are simple and is one we can all collectively work together on:
- Students demand recognition of these heinous acts.
- Students demand acknowledgment that the actions that have been taken to address this violence are not enough.
- Students demand that we start honoring the demands that were set during the Lowell Black Student Union Walkout in 2016.
- Students demand that the administration take immediate action not only to find who caused this harm, but also punish them to the greatest extent.
- Students demand that the administration ceases to censor students who speak up about racism at Lowell.
- Students demand that the administration address the ongoing racist history and culture at Lowell.
What message are we sending to our young people if we allow this to continue? If you are for students, if you are standing with them, if you are fighting to ensure the greatest outcome for our youth, meanwhile failing to address these very real issues when they arise, then the burden will continue to fall on our most vulnerable students.”
SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said:
“We are deeply concerned about and condemn the racist, anti-Semitic, pornographic and offensive content that was discovered. We are committed to finding the perpetrators and ensuring full accountability for this heinous act. Those responsible will be held accountable following SFUSD policies and state and federal laws. Hate speech is a criminal act and is not tolerated in SFUSD. We are also committed to supporting the school community as it processes this deplorable incident and in its ongoing efforts to eradicate racism and ensure a safe and respectful learning environment for all students. While we do not yet know who is responsible for this act, we do know that racism persists in our community and is harmful to everyone, especially our students of color. Lowell High School and SFUSD are committed to anti-racist leadership and anti-racist instruction and actively integrate anti-racist lessons for staff and students throughout the learnng day. Anti-racist practices remain a priority for SFUSD even in distance learning. This is not just an attack on the Lowell community, it is an attack on all of us.”
In a video message to the community, Lowell Principal Dacotah Swett said:
“My heart specifically goes out to the members of our community who were targeted -- our Black and Jewish students. The images and hateful words are part of historic acts of violence that have been committed time and again, and I will not tolerate it. When I saw what was posted, a mixture of emotions ran through me in quick succession: Shock, anger, disgust and rage. I am furious with whomever saw fit to defile our community postings with such hate-filled messages.
This message is to whomever made these racist and anti-Semitic attacks on our community: I will pursue all means available to me to hold you accountable for your actions. Your words and actions have no place at Lowell. If you are one of our students the full measure of disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with District policies up to and including expulsion. Your actions constitute hate speech and you will be held accountable.”