SFUSD is blaming hackers, but Black Lowell students believe it was their fellow students, as an online anti-racism class erupts in N-words and pornography.
The fashionable San Francisco antipathy toward Lowell High School has always been kind of a Meatballs/Caddyshack class warfare kind of thing, just a fun set of stereotypes that many natives foster towards the prestigious high school’s student body that is allegedly more bougie, privileged, or gilded. But things took a turn for the uglier in October, when a proposed lottery system, intended to temporarily replace the merit-based system due to a lack of pandemic-era testing while also making the school’s demographic more multicultural, turned a virtual school board meeting into a hotbed of racially charged attacks and social media posts with board members depicted with swastikas on their faces.
Students at Lowell High School were subjected to horrifically antiblack images and comments on a Padlet activity yesterday and are demanding that the school, district, and city address the rampant antiblackness. Please support them in their efforts. https://t.co/AEbJSFwQVz— Ms. (Annie) Phan 🗽 (@MsPhanSF) January 21, 2021
Three months later, things have taken a turn for the very-worse at one at one of California’s premier public schools. After the above tweet made the rounds and was picked up by the the district’s new supervisor Myrna Melgar, the Chronicle spoke to a Black Lowell student in response to racist and pornographic posts made in an anti-racism online course Wednesday.
The course, conducted over some ed-tech platform called Padlet, allowed students to post anonymously (maybe not a good idea?), and posts were then supposed to be screened by an adult moderator. Something clearly went wrong, as at least two pornographic images and five really rude n-word posts made it into the course feed. SFUSD’s initial response is that they suspect a hacking, though a Black senior at Lowell, Shavonne Hines-Foster, told the Chronicle, “This is Lowell behavior.”
The incriminating posts are online (WARNING: difficult stuff to look at in the screenshots at the bottom, beneath a students’ statement). But it’s also uplifting to see that many of the students did approach the exercise pretty thoughtfully, and the Black students who wrote the response really took the high road.
“We bring your attention to the lesson that was being taught: Anti-Racism,” the students wrote in an email to the district and Mayor Breed. “These actions were not committed in ignorance; they sought to perpetuate racism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy. If you choose to ignore this email, you are contributing to the same cycle. We cannot hide under our district’s progressive label. We must dismantle racism. Lowell and SFUSD have a history further marginalizing and ignoring Black students when issues like racism and discrimination are raised."
@chesaboudin @londonbreed Yesterday, during anti-racism training, someone hacked into our school's distance learning environment & posted vile anti-Black hate speech. Since DL is critical govt infrastructure, we ask for a cyber hate crime investigation.https://t.co/PY1MRzLRyZ— CheesemonkeySF (@cheesemonkeysf) January 21, 2021
The above tweet from a Lowell teacher, who’s also the school’s Black Student Union co-adviser, alleges the incident was a hack and demands a hate crime investigation. The district is taking the same tack. “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,” superintendent Vincent Matthews said in a statement to the Chron. “We are committed to finding the perpetrators and ensuring full accountability for this heinous act.”
Race issues have long simmered at Lowell, whose student body is only 2% Black, and just 10% Latinx. Lowell put its admissions process overhaul on hold when October’s batch of ugly incidents popped up. This is incident is so highly charged that it’s unlikely the district can delay their response until after COVID-19 blows over.
Related: Black Bird-Watcher Who Spoke Out About SF Racism a Decade Ago Celebrates Black Birders Week [SFist]
Image: Robin Y. via Yelp