“Maybe if you niggers wernt (sic) in this school, west a (sic) might actually be a perfect school. So do us a favor and get the f… out you motherf… niggers!”
That is just part of a letter eight African-American students found on their seats—personally addressed—when they arrived for their first-period classes at West Allegheny High School in Imperial, April 15.
“It was a total surprise to me. I wasn’t so much scared as shocked,” said sophomore Lewis Walls. “I never expected anything like this to happen.”
Calls to the district for comment were not returned by New Pittsburgh Courier deadline.
Walls’ mother, Sheila Johns, contacted the Courier about the incident 10 days later, after growing frustrated with the lack of action by the school district.
“They’re saying it’s an isolated incident and they’re investigating, but they don’t know who did it,” she said. “Some parents think it could have been an adult because some of the spelling mistakes seem intentional, but we don’t know. A lot of us came out here to get away from the craziness in the city and to get a better education for our kids—and now we get this.”
Bonita Pannell’s daughter Tyler also received a letter, but Pannell, whose children have been in the West Allegheny District for several years, said this incident is just the latest in a long progression.
“My son is 27 now, and things like this were going on when he was still here,” she said. “There have been incidents of nasty texts, calling people names in the cafeteria and the principal keeps saying they are isolated incidents. But if there are this many, how isolated can it be?”
Pannell said some think it could be related to a fight between a White girl and a Black girl the day before, both were suspended, but the White girl received 10 days for instigating the fight, twice as much time as the Black student.
“The principal said they are looking at security tapes, but how long does that take,” she said. “So we’ve gotten together and sent a certified letter to the principal and superintendent asking for a May 2 meeting with all the parents, before we take this to the school board May 11.”
Don Elvoid’s two sons also had letters addressed to them. Both were so angered by the incident that the vice principal asked her to take them out of the school for the rest of the day.
“I’d heard it stemmed from the fight too, but that’s just rumors,” she said. “I tell my boys to deal in facts, but right now we don’t have any. So when we meet with the principal, we’re going to ask for some changes. Kids shouldn’t have to put up with this. Now that we’ve sent the letter, I expect a different tone.”
Walls agreed, he said one student in his class let loose a verbal assault laced racial epithets on another Black student in the cafeteria about a month earlier.
“He’d have been the obvious suspect for the letter, but it couldn’t have been him—he was suspended at the time,” Walls said. “I mean, two years ago, I was at a Catholic school that was racially balanced so I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’d like it to stop. I don’t think I should have to go through this again, neither should anyone else.”
(Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)