A California high school administrator said her race and gender made her a target of harassment, causing her to resign from her job. The woman said the experience not only impacted her health but motivated her to consider suicide.
West Campus High School assistant principal Elysse Versher told the district this week she has decided not to return to the Sacramento City Unified School District. The educator said she was exposed to several racially motivated incidents while on the job and that no one from the district supported her.
She said the “nasty, hateful, obscene rhetoric” pushed her to have suicidal thoughts and caused a breakdown in her health.
In an email she wrote, “After experiencing multiple stressed induced seizures on November 10, 2021, and an unsuccessful suicide attempt in December 2021, I now have the strength to leave this hostile working environment for good. For these reasons, I am resigning from my position as Assistant Principal effective immediately.”
Brian Heap, the chief communications officer of the Sacramento City Unified School District, said the district has accepted her resignation from the West Campus High School and it will be effective on June 17, after the end of the school year, the local CBS News station reported.
Her resignation note read in part, “Given the physical and emotional anguish that I have suffered as a result of the racial discrimination and harassment endured by me over the years and the district’s failure to prevent such conduct by its administration, staff, students, and parents, I know that I cannot safely return to work.
Thus, please accept this letter as my official resignation from my employment with Sacramento Unified School District, effective immediately. Please acknowledge receipt of this notice, via email, and provide any additional next steps if applicable.”
Versher, a Black woman, detailed at least nine different times she reported abuse, and nothing was done, causing her, she wrote in a letter addressed to the superintendent and the district’s board of directors to have PTSD and seizures and to consider suicide.
One of the incidents that pushed her to the brink happened in November 2021 when the N-word was painted on a campus building close to her parking spot. She also said the harassment included hateful messages posted by unidentifiable people on her social media profiles.
While 2021 was the deal-breaking year, she has alleged and documented various degrees of harassment since she joined the district three years ago from students, parents, faculty and staff in 2019. Versher claims the district refused to protect her from the onslaught of violations, including vandalism, criminal mischief and sexual harassment that included demeaning and degrading language.
In her letter, she recalled an incident of students coming “in droves to produce evidence of their peers racially harassing me and posting hateful words and images on the face of my -then- 4-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. My principal told me that despite the fact students were calling me racist names IN CLASS during INSTRUCTION, it’s free speech and we could not investigate.”
“Unfortunately, the district has not taken this seriously and still does not take incidents of racism and hate crimes seriously, so I have to seek accountability through the legal system,” she said. “SCUSD gave me no choice but to resign from a career I worked so hard to prepare for and enjoyed.”
“I’m devastated that the district did not take the harassment and trauma I experienced seriously. (I wish) they followed up with actionable measure,” Versher said, before sharing she felt like she was “hanging on by a thread.”
West Campus High School is a prestigious school, ranking #199 in the nation, #25 in California, and #1 in the city of Sacramento in U.S. News and World Report, boasting a 100 percent graduation rate. The school appears to be racially diverse with Asians leading at 35.2 percent, Hispanics at 31.7 percent, whites at 19.3 percent, mixed race at 9.9 percent, and Blacks at 3.4 percent.
In response to Versher’s resignation and her going public about their lack of support, the district released a statement on Thursday, May 19.
“Dr. Versher made complaints of racist acts directed toward her during her employment and the District immediately initiated an investigation into those complaints. That investigation is nearly complete,” the statement read.
“At this point, out of respect to Dr. Versher and the process, the District will not have further comment until the investigator’s final report is issued. We expect that will happen soon.”
The district, overseeing the Sacramento City Unified campuses, says the West Campus was not the only school with complaints about racism within its walls and cultural ethos. Thus, officials have hired the first race and equity liaison to address racism within the learning spaces.
The district has said it started an investigation into her complaints, with a representative saying a full report will be available next week.