Racial tensions at a North Bay high school

April 18, 2008 6:33:45 PM PDT
The fear of racial violence at a North Bay high school frightened most of the student body into staying home Friday. The high school called police to the campus to make sure there was no trouble. The racial harassment started a couple of weeks ago at Rodriguez High School in Fairfield.

Fairfield Police don't know who started the rumor about possible racial trouble, but the news quickly spread through hundreds of online chats and text messages between the students. Police aren't sure if they'll ever find the source, but thousands of students stayed home Friday, and that cost the school $60,000 in ADA funding.

Out of 2,400 students at Rodriguez High School in Fairfield, 2,000 didn't show up for classes. Rumors of a message on MySpace and through phone texts scared them away.

"There was just messages regarding racial tensions and possible fights on campus and the messages cautioned students not to go to school today," said Stewart Savage with the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District.

Some parents heeded the caution.

"I didn't know whether or not to take it seriously, but I wasn't going to take any chances," said parent Lisa Wilson.

Lisa Wilson's son spent the day online, chatting about the ruckus. Others took their chances and went to class.

Fairfield Police sent four officers to campus and another dozen patrolled the area around the school.

The rumored threat follows two racially motivated incidents two weeks ago. On April 3rd, two senior boys drove through the school parking lot pulling a large teddy bear by a noose. The next day, the same boys drove around waving a Confederate flag.

"I don't think they really are racist. I just think they got this stupid notion that they should do it. I don't know, I think it was just a bad decision," said student Jackson Downey.

Police say the racial undertones are clear, but not necessarily illegal.

"The waving of the flag is actually, whether we like it or not, is considered free speech and there was no violation of the law there. The largest violation of the law we had at this point was reckless driving that was related to the incident," said Ofc. Matt Bloesch.

When we asked Ofc. Bloesch if driving the teddy bear through the parking lot with a noose was not considered a hate crime, he responded, "that in of itself, it could not be."

"It's not freedom of speech and especially on the day that it happened, it's incendiary speech," said Tess Downey, a mother.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Student Nicole Terrell says she's learning a lesson from all of this.

"I personally felt upset and I just thought about why. We just don't think about it, but it is here today. Racism is still here today," said Terrell.

Terrell is now organizing a group called Coalition of Cultures. She and about 60 other students are trying to educate their peers about the ugliness of racism.

Rodriguez High School has about 20 percent African American students, 20 percent Hispanic and 60 percent caucasian, Asian and other races.

Police say the two boys involved in the earlier incident are caucasian. So far, they have received 10-day suspensions from school.


Load Comments