Dan Burns

Salinas Union High School District Superintendent Dan Burns at the school board meeting Aug. 24, where about 300 people spoke in response to the racist incident and called upon the board to take action.

The investigation at Salinas Union High School District into student involvement in a racist incident involving a Black doll with an Instagram account has concluded. SUHSD Superintendent Dan Burns announced the conclusion of the investigation in a a video released Wednesday, Sept. 1, in which he also apologized to the Black community, especially to Black women and girls who saw themselves represented in the series of racist photos that showed a Black doll being stereotyped, mutilated and stomped on, documented on the Instagram account @Shaniqua.shs.

Administrators identified 27 students who were involved to varying degrees, according to Burns’ statement. 

The district did not release the names of the students involved nor the specific disciplinary actions taken against each, but Burns said they have identified the student who purchased the Black doll and created the account. 

Among the students involved, some are members of extracurricular activities, including the Associated Student Body and various athletic teams. Burns specified that the student who create the account is neither an athlete nor Black, but the races of the students involved—which includes their photos appearing in the account, in spite of some of those students say they unwittingly held the doll and their photos were taken without them understanding the context—vary. Of the 27 students, 15 are Latino, nine are white, two are multi-racial and one is Black. 

The Weekly spoke to the Black student, senior Jayden Wilson, the Associated Student Body executive treasurer at Salinas High. She was suspended for one day; she plans to appeal her suspension, and says she was unaware the racist Instagram account existed until the night after her photo was taken.

The racist imagery exploded after the jamboree on Aug. 20 in students’ group chats. Kimberly Mendoza, a senior at Everett Alvarez High School, gathered evidence and created a video to expose it. The video went viral in the community and drew widespread media attention. 

All students involved will attend anti-racist education training, according to SUHSD, and will receive discipline depending upon their level of participation. Consequences include everything from losing extracurricular activity privileges to suspension.

“We realize that these unacceptable racially insensitive and harassing actions have impacted students, staff, and the community at large, thus we have begun working with various community partners and organizations to engage in the healing process,” Burns said. 

Burns also said the district will take short- and long-term actions to fulfill the SUHSD Black Lives Matter/social justice initiative, which includes being “committed to maintaining a safe, positive environment where all students, staff, parents/guardians, and community members are treated with respect and dignity.” 

To eliminate racial biases and microaggressions on SUHSD campuses, the district will provide training/education and review its curriculum. This includes anti-racist education for students and staff, training in restorative/transformational justice practices, and implementing ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. 

The district will also hire a diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinator to provide a more inclusive and equitable climate for students on campus. It is unclear what is the time frame to hire the coordinator. “We recognize these steps represent only the beginning as we commit to working together to learn, heal, and enact positive change in our district and in our community,” Burns said.

An investigation into staff for potential involvement is ongoing.

 

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