‘Scared, angry’ students take stand after school targeted in racist, homophobic attack

People hold a sign that reads 'Encourage love not hate at SDA + everywhere'

After a high school was defaced with homophobic and racist slurs, students and locals rallied against the “systemic problem” of hate.

A demonstration took place after hateful messages were graffitied on San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas, California over the New Year’s weekend.

Tasha Williamson, an activist in the local community, shared photos of the vandalism on social media and wrote: “Our kids are going back to school in Encinitas where racial and LGBTQ hate trauma exist.

“We continue to be subjected to racism and LGBTQ hate generation after generation.”

It is at least the third incident of hateful graffiti at a San Dieguito Union High School District campus this school year, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. KGTV reported the recent incident also marked the second instance for the school itself. Authorities are working with school officials to identify the person responsible.

San Dieguito Academy students, parents, allies and community leaders met on Monday (3 January) for a rally against the recent wave of hatred in the local area.

Aya Jaffer, a junior at San Dieguito Academy High School, told KPBS that she was “not surprised in the slightest” that someone had painted homophobic and racist slurs on the school.

“It was obviously disheartening, but it’s happened so many times, it’s become nothing new,” Jaffer said.

Jaffer added there have been “constant threats” against marginalised students in the district this year, and it felt “scary” and “unsafe” at school.

North County Equity and Justice Coalition member Yusef Miller believed the graffiti was indicative of a “systemic problem” of hate at the district.

“This is not an issue of a one-off,” Miller said. “This is an issue of a systemic problem that has been going on in San Dieguito Unified for years.”

San Diego Union High School District superintendent Dr Cheryl Ward told NBC7 that not only are the kids addressing the hateful incidents, but the school board and staff are working to address it as well.

She also assured the community that there are specific plans to “hire [an] ombudsman to address any discrimination that happens in general”.

Ward added that staff also have “ways to be anti-biased to be upstanders”.

“I think if we see every kid, if we care for every kid, if we love every kid, we will have fewer incidents of this, period,” Ward said.

She continued: “Now, will it all disappear away altogether? I can’t say that, because, again, there are so many other influencers out there that we have no control over.”

Jaffer added that students will continue to fight against homophobic and racist hate within the schools, adding that those affected by the event are “never alone in this fight”.

“I’m here. We’re all here. All of these people are here for you and for your feelings,” she said.

Jaffer continued: “It’s OK to feel hurt and you should feel hurt. You should feel angry. You should feel mad and you should want change now because that’s what we need right now. We need that momentum.”