Administrators of Sacramento’s African-American schools say racism against black leaders is an ongoing problem

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Although Darryl White hasn’t been a principal in years, he still remembers one particular incident that happened during his sophomore year at Luther Burbank High in the Sacramento City Unified School District.

“These things you don’t forget,” White said.

White, who is black, recalled that when he surfaced about an issue involving a white teacher, the entire English department, who was also white, turned against him.

“The next day, the entire English department came into my office to explain to me that she was one of the best English teachers in the district and that I had to take a closer look at the students,” he said. he declares.

In the end, he said he was able to provide enough documentation that the teacher in question wasn’t doing his job well, and then department staff left him alone — but as an administrator. noir, this power struggle is something he carries with him.

Now, with the resignation of Elysse Versher, vice-principal of West Campus High School also in the Sacramento City Unified School District, White says it seems clear that the obstacles black administrators face have not decreases.

“It’s always been a very difficult situation for African Americans looking to get into school administration,” said White, who is now the president of the black parallel school board, a community advocacy organization. “When you, as an administrator, decide to take that leap, you know most of your teachers will be white, and because of that, you know it will be like walking through a minefield.”

Versher’s resignation earlier this year from West Campus was spurred by racist graffiti, written by students near his car last winter. In a letter to the district, she detailed the racist treatment that had lasted for years while she held her position. Versher has since filed a lawsuit against Sacramento City Unified and has not returned requests for comment.

But Betty Williams of the Sacramento NAACP said Versher wasn’t the only one treated this way by district staff and students.

“To be completely honest, we have three cases in the NAACP of African American women, all vice directors, who, if they haven’t resigned, are on mental health leave because of the way they are. addressed, harassment, racism within school districts,” Williams said. “It seems to be a trend for black women and for them to seek help within the school district and they hear crickets.”

Williams added that she didn’t believe Sacramento City Unified had done enough to provide adequate protection for Versher when she began to surface for harassment complaints.

“I’m fed up and disappointed that the Sac Unified School District hasn’t done anything in my humble opinion to support her,” Williams said.

Sacramento City Unified hired attorney Mark Harris to specifically address the incident involving graffiti on West Campus and other acts of racism at schools in the district. A statement provided to CapRadio by the district indicates that they are committed to providing an environment free of racism and harassment for students and staff. He also noted that an internal investigation found the district acted appropriately.

“Findings indicate the District responded appropriately to graffiti and social media posts that included racist language and imagery toward former employee Dr. Elysse Versher,” it read. “Although there is insufficient evidence to identify the perpetrator(s) through this process, these findings have been provided to the Sacramento Police Department as the criminal investigation into this matter remains open.”

Nationally, however, some advocates say African-American administrators have historically faced barriers to workplace success.

Linda Tillman, professor emeritus of instructional leadership at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, has studied these obstacles. She said black educators have always struggled to run schools, a system that remains predominantly white.

“We can trace the treatment of black educators and administrators back to the brown decision, and we can go all the way back to 1954, which started a cycle of mistreatment of black school administrators,” Tillman said. “I think the current moment of harassment, racial discrimination of black administrators in schools, not just in California but across the country, is due to the current political climate.”

Tillman mentioned things like the rise of the idea that critical race theory is taught in K-12 classrooms has caused white parents to lash out at black ruling schools. Opponents have alleged that it is taught in public schools, but it’s not.

“In the case of black managers in the current climate of these pushbacks against critical race theory, against the whole issue of Black Lives Matter, any manager who supports that is likely to be attacked,” Tillman said.

Darryl White says the success of black administrators always depends on white support.

“As African Americans, we wonder how our staff are going to treat us, we always worry about the amount of pushback we’re going to get, and we come in with the realization that if we don’t get the right amount of white employees on our side, we’re going to have hell on our first day,” White said.


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