California High School Students Walk Out of Classes Over Racist Threats

By Sameer Rao Nov 06, 2015

Hundreds of students at Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California walked out of classes yesterday in protest over racist threats found on a campus computer.

Messages reading "KKK Forever Public Lynching December 9th 2015" and "I hung a n***** by his neck in my backyard," among other slurs, were found on a school computer Wednesday afternoon. 

Images of the messages were tweeted out by the school’s Black Student Union, which was central to organizing yesterday’s walkout, according to the area’s NBC affiliate. Participants and others documented the walkout and subsequent march to the center of UC Berkeley’s campus using the hashtag #BerkeleyKKK



A diverse and growing group of protesters, police estimated at least 700 marchers, walked through the city towards Berkeley City Hall. They eventually stopped on the steps of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza—a frequent demonstration site dating back to the 1960s. Chanting "Black Lives Matter" and "Raise a fist if you’re not gonna take this," the protesters implored school officials to investigate the incident. 

The school’s principal, Sam Pasarow, told marchers that he was on their side. He also reportedly sent an e-mail to students and parents, admitting that he should have reported the incident sooner—the community wasn’t notified until Wednesday evening, despite discovering the messages hours earlier—and pledging to make the environment safer for students: 

"This is a hate crime and messages such as this one will not stand in our community," Pasarow wrote in his email, adding that both Berkeley High School and Berkeley police were actively investigating the incident.

"We are working hard to create a positive and inclusive school culture and we recognize the deep pain and rage that hate crimes such as this one bring to our students of color, as well as the damaging effects on our entire community," Pasarow’s email said. "Even as we continue our investigation we recognize the need to address the harm that this has caused, and to that end we will be spending time planning as a staff about how to support and care for our students."

Pasarow later confirmed to media that someone had admitted to making the threats, and that he will face suspension and possible criminal charges.

The school’s Black Student Union offered their own statement via social media as well: