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California Principal Backtracks on Email Warning About Black Man In a Hoodie, Sparks Outrage

A San Diego principal of a local elementary school who sent out an email last month warning parents about a Black man dressed in hoodie recently apologized after facing backlash.

Donna Tripi, the principal of La Jolla Elementary School issued out an apology to parents after sending an email that seemingly stereotyped a patron at Starbucks,” the San Diego Tribune reported. She described the man as “an African American male about 30 years old, about 6’1-6’2, dressed in all Black and a hooded sweatshirt,” in the memo.

Donna Tripi

(photo credit: San Diego Unified School District Website)

The email stated that the man was allegedly staring at and following a student. The email also gave parents pointers on how to keep their children safe from men in hoodies. Tripi suggested that parents dial the cops “if you see something that doesn’t feel right.”

“We’re all hoping it was an isolated incident,” the elementary principal wrote.

However, the email drew criticism from several parents who accused Tripi of stereotyping Black males. The principal dispatched a follow-up mea culpa this week for stigmatizing men of color.

“My email was a mistake,” the La Jolla principal wrote. “While it is critical to keep our school family safe, the way I communicated didn’t provide enough specifics to identify the individual, but could easily lead to unnecessary and harmful reactions against other members of our community. … African American males continue to face discrimination in our society every day. The thought that I unintentionally contributed to that climate with a vague email is something for which I owe our community an apology.”

Statistically speaking only five Black students were enrolled at La Jolla Elementary last fall out of 535 students according to state data.

“This apology is as disturbing as the original email,” said the president of the San Diego Branch of the NAACP, André Branch. “She repeats the description of the man, mentioning his race, but not that of the parents or the children. This repetition reinforces the idea that the parents and their children have something to fear from African-American men.”

He adds, “They have no more to fear from African-American males than they do from white males in hoodies or white males in suits and ties.”

Tripi has not responded to the Tribune’s request for comment and a forum at the elementary school will be held on Monday.

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