Racist threat against Black students at California high school evokes fear in parents

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Parents of Black students at a high school in California are worried for their children’s safety after a threat was made on Instagram earlier this month.

The parents told NBC News that they have little details regarding the incident involving the threat made against Black students who attend Western High School in Anaheim, and are unsatisfied with the response from school staff.

The threat came in the form of an image posted on Instagram, which was reviewed by NBC News. Accompanying text warned the school to “be ready” and used a racial slur on top of a picture of handguns, a semi-automatic rifle and other guns. It is not clear when the image was posted, but is no longer available publicly because it was a story post, which only lasts as long as 24 hours.

Victor James, whose son is a junior, said “nobody” from the school “is really doing anything to really make sure that we’re OK.”

“We don’t feel safe,” he said. “We don’t feel like this is really being taken seriously.”

“No one’s making a big deal about it,” he added. “What do we have to do? Have one of our kids killed before somebody shows up to say something?”

Western High School in Anaheim, Calif. (Google maps)
Western High School in Anaheim, Calif. (Google maps)

John Bautista, the public information manager for the Anaheim Union High School District, said in a statement Monday that the incident is “under investigation with the Anaheim Police Department.”

He also referred to an email sent to families May 5, stating that the district is “aware of a threat circulating on social media platforms regarding a school shooting” at “Western High School and other schools in Orange County and across the nation.” Law enforcement “have deemed the threat to be NON CREDIBLE,” and encouraged the community to “say something if they see something and report any concerns,” according to the statement.

Several schools in multiple states, including North Carolina, received threats that day, and staff at several schools deemed the threat unspecified, an ABC News station in Durham reported. The Coral Springs Police Department in Florida arrested an 18-year-old last Friday for a social media post threatening a mass shooting at a school, according to NBC Miami, but it is unknown if the person arrested was linked to the threat targeting Western High School students.

Some parents said they are on edge from the threat following a series of racist encounters they said their children have experienced with little intervention from school administration. James’ wife, Pamela Driskel-James, said there has “been an escalation” of racist acts toward their son since the last school year. Some racist acts, including vandalizing Black students’ cars, often targeted  her son’s football team, which includes many Black players.

Western High School administrators did not return multiple requests for comment on the Black students’ experiences.

The racist acts eventually caught the attention of the school’s staff last spring, and local police monitored the football games until the end of the season, she said. She said that a month later, she was notified by school officials that around four Latino students jumped her son while he was walking to class. While he didn’t sustain any injuries, Driskel-James said she is concerned for his safety.

“This is built up and that’s why it’s so scary,” Driskel-James said.

The Anaheim Police Department investigated “numerous school-related threats that occurred on May 5” and takes all threats seriously, its public information officer, Sgt. Jonathan McClintock said in a statement. The investigations are ongoing, he added, and the department plans to release additional details “as soon as possible.”

The department also said it has increased patrols at local schools and anyone with additional information on the threats to contact it.

Shanay Joshway, one of the parents, said that on May 8, she spoke with Assistant Principal Matthew Griffin, who told her that the student who made the threat targeting Western High School “was a boy from Savanna High School.” Yet, she said, when she later spoke to Anaheim police investigator Robert Reams, she was informed that “he doesn’t have any information about Savanna High School or a little boy being detained there.”

Griffin and Reams did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment.

Joshway said her conversation with the investigator made her “uneasy all over again.” She also wants “everybody to be on the same page, and know what’s going on and inform the parents of what’s happening because this has to do with our kids’ safety,” she added.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com