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'An investigation is not enough' | Sacramento Black leaders call for action after high school vice principal reports harassment

Black leaders in Sacramento are calling on the school district to take action after a local Black vice principal reported racist, hateful harassment on campus.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Black leaders are calling on the Superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District to take action after a Black vice principal was the alleged victim of a racist and hateful incident this week.

Their demand for change came in a news conference Friday morning, outside West Campus High School, where the reported harassment happened.

On Monday, Vice Principal Dr. Elysse Versher said she arrived at her assigned parking spot to find the n-word written five times. That's after she says she was the target of online harassment last week for trying to enforce the dress code. 

RELATED: Sacramento police, school district investigating racist incident at West Campus High School

Greater Sacramento NAACP Chapter President Betty Williams said that's not all that has happened to Versher.

"For the past three years, she had been subjected to overt racist and aggressive behavior from students and parents,” Williams said at Friday’s news conference.

She and other Black community leaders are calling for an investigation into the racist incidents against Versher — and the arrest of those responsible.

“Most recently, the students referring to her…as 'Black n****r, Black b**ch, Black Hitler, and writing n****r five times on the wall near the vice principal's parking lot spot," Williams said. "What's going on when it's okay for students to call their vice principal, the n-word?"

She called out district and school leaders for not doing enough to protect Black employees and students from harassment like this.

"I'm asking the school district to get up off your ass and support her!” Williams said.

Speaking with ABC10 on Thursday, Versher said Monday's incident lead to her hospitalization with stress-induced seizures, something she said had never happened to her before.

“I feel like being quiet has just given consent to this hate crime to just keep happening,” Versher told ABC10. 

Williams said she doesn’t trust the district to take action on this.

"That's why we're asking [Sacramento Police] Chief Hahn to look into a full investigation on a criminal level based on hate crimes," Williams said. "Students need to be arrested for this behavior. It's a hate crime, I consider it terrorism.”

Sacramento Police spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Briggs tells ABC10 detectives have been assigned to follow-up on this, calling the incident "concerning.” She said the department is looking into the circumstances of the report as a hate-related crime.

Toni Tinker-Loken, with the district’s African American Advisory Board, said change needs to come through policies from the district level – and with the pressure from community members speaking up.

"This is not okay. An investigation is not enough,” Tinker-Loken said. 

Superintendent Jorge Aguilar released the following statement after the day's news conference:

“Today the NAACP held a press conference to express outrage over the racist incidents that occurred at West Campus. I share these feelings.

The abhorrent incidents of racist graffiti and racist language used on social media are criminal acts that are under investigation by the Sacramento Police Department. Appropriate action will be taken once facts are known.

We know that this heinous incident involving racist language is causing intense pain and trauma for our students, their families, and our staff.

We have a need and opportunity for racial reckoning as a community, and must take steps to heal while supporting individuals who are traumatized by these anguishing events. The Sac City Unified Mental Health Crisis Team was at West Campus today and will be there next week to provide individual support to students and staff who need help processing these events. Our district is also supporting the West Campus community with resources and other supports for racial justice healing that are based on best practices for healing racial trauma.

Making our schools safe and anti-racist places of learning and support for all is an ongoing process. Anti-racism efforts and racial reckoning must impact every aspect of our organization on an ongoing basis.

Increasing diversity of our District staff also remains a priority for our District. As Sac City Unified works to address a teacher shortage, we continue to explore strategies to help ensure that our staff reflects the demographics of our students. The strategies include, but are not limited to, partnerships with community organizations, continued partnerships with colleges, universities and teacher preparation programs as well as targeted recruitment trips to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

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