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‘To My Favorite Cotton Picker’: California School District Under Fire After Black Parents Claim Their Children Received Racist Handmade Cards from Classmates

Parents are demanding action and answers from school officials after their Black children received handmade cards with what parents are calling racist language in a sixth-grade class at Pepper Tree Elementary School in Upland, California, this month.

The series of drawings read “You’re my favorite monkey” and “To my favorite cotton picker.”

According to KTLA 5 News, a mother of a Pepper Tree Elementary student said that she pulled her daughter from the school after continued harassment and little action from the Upland Unified School District.

Front of Pepper Tree Elementary School (Photo Cred: Screenshot from KTLA 5 News Youtube channel)

Maylana and Rome Douglass, parents of three children that attend the school, told KTLA 5 News that their 12-year-old daughter has also received harassment from other sixth-grade students.

Photos of the cards given to the Black Students (Photo Cred: KTLA News 5 Youtube channel)

“They said that they were going to give her (a drawing) that specifically said, ‘You’re my favorite slave,’ and they were going to show her as a slave hanging from a tree,” said Maylana Douglas to KTLA.

In addition, Rome Douglas stated that a group of girls at the San Bernardino County school told his daughter that they would give her back massages since it’s Black History Month.

“It’s your month, you’re entitled to back rubs,” Rome Douglas said the girls told his daughter. “And apparently, someone told her, ‘Well, maybe only half the month because you’re only half Black.”  

In addition, their son has told them that other students made monkey noises towards him as he pass through the hallway.

“I’ve pulled them out until we feel it’s safe,” said Maylana and Rome Douglas.

The president of the Parent-Teacher Association Robin Allen released a statement to the school district in support of the students that were targeted:

“I’m hoping that the district does not brush this under the rug as they’ve brushed issues under the rug in the past,” she said. “We want to know what zero-tolerance means. This is not the first time a situation like this has happened. It’s not going to be the last time that this situation happens, but the most important thing is our response to the situation.”  

This is not the first time the students in the Upland School District have experienced racism. Last year, a teacher was placed on leave for anti-Asian comments made during Lunar Year at a different elementary school.

The principal of Pepper Tree Elementary School sent a letter out to parents two weeks after the most recent incident happened. A day after the letter was sent, officials from the school district uploaded a video on their Youtube channel.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that we have a strict zero-tolerance policy on any type of hate speech, harassment,” said Upland USD Board President Sherman Garnett.

Officials from the school district also released a statement to the media that read:

“An investigation took place immediately upon learning about these disgusting, racist drawings students gave to another child in their class … The content in those cards is shocking and abhorrent. We deeply regret that our student has had to endure the hurt that race based bullying causes.”  

The district also stated that privacy laws prevent them from publicly discussing whether the student that created the drawings would be disciplined. Some parents attended a board meeting Tuesday to bring up the reoccurring racial issues in the schools to board members.

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