Clovis High School administrators are asking black students whether they feel safe on campus after racial slurs were written on school property repeatedly last week.
On Wednesday and Thursday, messages such as “Go Back 2 Africa (racial expletive)” were written several times on different stalls in boys’ restrooms. The student responsible has not yet been identified, but the school has cracked down on monitoring bathroom usage and has met with students to discuss the situation, Clovis Unified spokeswoman Kelly Avants said, calling the action “cowardly.”
“We’re reaching out to every African American student on the campus just to make sure they are feeling comfortable and OK. We have a zero tolerance policy for hate-motivated language and behavior,” Avants said Monday.
“With anything like this, the first question was, ‘Are you having any other indication of racial tension on your campus? Are there fights or anything at all?’ And the answer is no. This isn’t a boiling issue. It’s apparently one kid who’s trying to create an issue.”
But student Galeah Graim disagrees. The 17-year-old senior said she wasn’t shocked by the graffiti messages, pointing to the school’s demographics. Only 2 percent of the school’s nearly 3,000 students are black, according to state Department of Education data. Districtwide, Clovis Unified is much less diverse than nearby Fresno Unified, where nearly 70 percent of students are Hispanic, 9 percent are black and 10 percent are white.
At Clovis Unified, more than 40 percent of students are white, and 3 percent are black.
“We already knew the battles we would face coming to a predominately white school. We deal with this kind of stuff every single day, but this was the last straw,” Graim said Monday. “It’s not the first time someone has degraded me or my peers. It’s been happening since I’ve been at Clovis High.”
Clovis High student Jalen Wills, 15, said he always has felt welcome at the school, but took to Twitter to write a message of his own to the perpetrator.
“To the cowards that wrote this: I just want to let you know that I’m winning because you will see me be happy, successful and eventually graduate, and there is nothing you can do about it,” Wills says in his post Sunday. “Because no matter what you say, I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to have a good life, and you can keep hating if you want because it doesn’t affect me. You are irrelevant to me, and you needed to know.”
Avants said the graffiti was immediately removed each time, and that teachers are now more strictly enforcing rules that require students to sign out from class when they need to use the bathroom.
“This doesn’t define their school,” Avants said. “They’ve worked to create a great culture on campus.”