Education

Parents of Bullard High student who posed in blackface release statement

A screenshot of a racist photo and video of a Fresno Unified student is shown. The girl’s face has been blurred.
A screenshot of a racist photo and video of a Fresno Unified student is shown. The girl’s face has been blurred.

The family of a Bullard High School student who posed in blackface on her friend’s social media account released a statement to the public on Tuesday.

The Bee is not identifying the student because she is a minor.

The statement reads in full:

“On Thursday, May 23rd, our 15 year old daughter was at her African-American friend’s home. Our daughter was painting her face with different colors of washable art paint and at one point painted her face black. Her friend filmed our daughter using a racial slur and posted it to the friends own social media account . Our daughter, thinking she and her friend were sharing a private ‘joke,’ went along with it. When we learned of this situation, we were distraught. We know the actions of using blackface and racial slurs are not only offensive and hurtful, but also have originated from a terrible history of oppression against African-Americans. Because of what we teach in our home and the values and faith in God we hold dear, we never thought we would be in a position to see our child say or do something that would cause so much anguish.

“As parents, our desire is to raise our children to use their words and actions to treat every person with love, dignity, respect, kindness and equality. We have attempted to teach them to know the difference between right and wrong and to never use any unkind name or slur against anyone.

“Because of the actions she took that go against what we teach in our home, we have not only imposed consequences in our household, but have submitted to the consequences given by both the school and the district last week. We are also in support of the cultural and sensitivity training and social media education to be implemented by the school district. We are having an intervention counselor meet with our family for one-on-one sessions dealing with cultural sensitivity training.

“To all who have seen this disturbing content, we ask for your forgiveness for the pain it has caused. We want nothing more than to be reconciled with anyone who has been hurt by the circumstances of the past week.

“We ask for your grace and mercy for us as parents as we try to teach our child about how any action, regardless of the intent, can create an agonizing and endless ripple effect on so many lives, including her own. We ask for your prayers of protection and wisdom as we navigate the difficulties of parenting in a social media world while also teaching our children to love others more than themselves.

“We pray that God will use this to make our community more compassionate, understanding, and educated on the issues of race, and help our community to grow stronger. We appreciate your patience as we work with our family, law enforcement, and the school district to make this right.”

Fresno Unified’s action

Fresno Unified held a news conference Tuesday to address the situation, and Superintendent Bob Nelson said administration sat down with concerned parents and students Monday.

What they understood from the meeting is that students and parents feel alienated and believe the district is tone deaf to the racism that is rampant at Fresno Unified and the city as a whole.

Nelson said the district “absolutely does not condone” the student’s behavior and she has faced disciplinary action.

He is also working toward developing students’ cultural sensitivity with more engagement. Nelson wants to grow the parent advisory board and expand Bullard’s Black Student Union.

The incident

Fresno Unified confirmed Saturday that the girl was responsible for posting the racist photo and video that spread on social media.

The video and photograph shows the student wearing black makeup or paint. In the video, the girl says “Who said I can’t say n—?”

Chuckling is also heard on the video as the girl makes the comment.

The incident is similar to other cases where students have shared racist messages on social media.

In 2017, Clovis Unified students shared Snapchat messages about “slaves” in reference to black people.

The school district held several community meetings to address the incident. The student who exposed the messages got death threats.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPanoo
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