Screenshots of group chat between students – allegedly taking place during their time as students at Vista Murrieta High School several years ago – surfaced recently on social media causing an uproar because of the racist nature of the conversation.
The screenshots of the chat involving four boys involve several images and statements that are racist in nature.
Valley News has chosen to protect the identity of the young woman who posted the screenshots out of fear of retribution.
Along with the screenshots, the young woman indicated that at the time, she brought her concerns to school officials but got nowhere.
“I showed these messages to people as I didn’t know what to do and immediately received threats from the people in the group chat and their parents,” she said. “I got called crazy and eventually had to switch to online school.
“And when I tried to out them, they covered it up and silenced me. The BBC (Bronco Bleacher Creatures) advisor and football coaches at Vista Murrieta High School played a part in covering it up when it began to spread,” she said. “VMHS itself is disgusting for how they handled this. I know exactly all the people who supported them through this. And don’t think I’m afraid to name names. I was torn to shreds for trying to bring this to light and all the supporters of these racists who defended them and stood by them deserve as much backlash.”
Late Friday evening, MVUSD sent an email to parents which was provided to Valley News. In it, Superintendent Patrick Kelley shared his thoughts.
“Earlier this week, I wrote to you all sharing my thoughts on the recent state of our nation and race relations in our community,” Kelley wrote. “Today, I am once again writing about race relations and an issue that came to my attention yesterday.
“Screenshots of a group chat between former VMHS students surfaced on social media. I am shocked by these posts. The content of these texts and the heinous images they portrayed are reprehensible and disturbing. They absolutely do not reflect the values of our school district.”
At least three of the young men who appear to be implicated in the chat group have released statements publicly via their personal Twitter accounts alluding to the group chat, taking responsibility for their actions, and denouncing their own behavior.
Taylor Daniel a former student at VMHS, was identified as one of the people involved in the group chat by MVUSD in the email distributed to district parents on Friday night.
Daniel is the son of current MVUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Darren Daniel, who also issued a statement.
“I am in absolute disbelief about this post,” Darren Daniel said in the email. “Apparently, this was done while he was in high school and my wife and I just learned of this today. My heart is broken. We are ashamed as a family and sad about the destructive and dehumanizing message by our son. The emotion elicited by these images is overwhelming and I am so sorry you and others were subjected to this by him. This behavior is inexcusable, and I am at a loss for words as we do not condone these ideals. I am ashamed, embarrassed, and confused about this. There are no words to even attempt to minimize the enormity of racially charged communication and I sincerely apologize.
“I want you to know I am deeply saddened about his actions and I am committed to changing this narrative in our society and those in our world. I have given my life to educating young people and thought I was always standing in the gap for the under-served, but obviously I have fallen short in my own home. I will be addressing this.
“Again, I apologize that you were subjected to this type of gross behavior.”
The school district also included in the email a statement made by Taylor Daniel on his social media account.
“I take full responsibility for my past actions,” Taylor said. “As a teenager, I was not aware of the impact words had, and therefore spoke carelessly. I do not agree with or condone the language that I have previously used. Looking back on these past years, I have grown tremendously. I have grown as a person and have educated myself on the biases and racism present today. I am not proud of my past and am always listening and learning. I have formed new opinions based on new values and do not identify with who I was years ago.
“I sincerely apologize to anyone I have offended in the past and plan to continue learning and listening.”
Valley News is yet to confirm the identities of the other men involved in the group chat while in high school and will not publish their names without that confirmation.
Monica Gutierrez, Public Information Officer for MVUSD, responded to questions from the Valley News earlier in the day.
“We were shocked by racist posts that have appeared on social media recently,” Monica Gutierrez, Public Information Officer for MVUSD, said in a statement Friday afternoon. “The content of these texts and the heinous images they portrayed are reprehensible and disturbing. They do not reflect the values of our school district.”
Gutierrez reiterated that the posts were made by former students, not current students.
“They were posted by former students five years ago and have resurfaced during the recent demonstrations across the country calling for racial justice,” she said. “These posts came to our attention yesterday.
“The school district is taking this situation very seriously. We are using an independent investigator from Best, Best & Krieger (BBK), a respected law firm with a long track record in dealing with racial injustice and hate speech. We have asked that BBK finds out whether individual staff members were informed about these posts at the time and how they handled the situation.
“We are confident the BBK investigative report will guide our future efforts to ensure that racism has no place in our schools. These are times that an organization must be open and transparent.”
Gutierrez insisted that the district has done work “in the pursuit of equity, inclusion, and respect” at the district.
“Our leadership team has facilitated courageous conversations with staff, parents, and students on the topics of racism, prejudice, and institutional bias,” she said. “We have an equity policy in place that is creating a pathway to progress on equity and change. But that is not enough; we must do more. Together, we can and will make a positive difference.
“We encourage our community to partner with us as we work towards eliminating racism and prejudice in our schools and community.”
Reaction to the district’s handling of the situation and statement was mixed on social media and since the publishing of the initial story, several former students and teachers, as well as current teachers at VMHS, have contact Valley News with their individual stories and experiences.
Valley News is investigating the validity of the claims and interviewing subjects as time allows.
Valley News sent a series of follow up questions to the district on Friday regarding the handling of the investigation, the processes included in the distribution of findings, and has requested contact with the law firm hired by the district.
Jeff Pack can be reached at email@example.com.