The Temecula Valley High School student who was the target of racist graffiti last month was asked by school officials to agree, among other things, not to negatively name students, school teams or activities on social media in exchange for increased protection on campus, including an escort to class, Valley News has learned.
TVHS senior Solona Husband was first interviewed by Valley News in September when she complained about her school’s handling of a Confederate flag that a student painted on a senior parking space. Since then, she has been active on social media in describing issues of discrimination she says she sees as a black student at TVHS, starting the hashtag #TVHSneedschange, which caused students to share stories of bullying and racism at school. She has been targeted at least twice by graffiti on campus referring to her using the N-word.
Considering those events, Husband and her family met with several Temecula Valley Unified officials including the TVHS principal Friday, Dec. 13, to discuss issues and concerns regarding her safety as well as ongoing issues and concerns, according to both Husband and district representative Laura Boss. Representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the African-American Parents Advisory Council were also in on that meeting.
Husband said initially that she emerged from the meeting feeling reassured that her concerns were being addressed.
In a message posted to Twitter that day, she said she “left hopeful and empowered” and that she felt her and other students who have complaints about what they see as discrimination on campus “are being heard, we are being seen, and most of all we are making change.”
“Now,” she said at the time, “we have to work with the system, now we have to trust the system, and now we have to make change within the system.”
As a result of the Dec. 13 meeting, TVHS administrators and TVUSD Student Welfare and Success representatives held a safety plan meeting with Husband and her parents the following Monday, Dec. 16, Boss confirmed.
A “TVHS Safety Plan” contract Husband provided that she said was presented to her and her parents at the meeting stated that, if agreed to, the school planned to provide Husband with an escort to and from class through the end of the semester, which ended Dec. 20; make supervisors aware of her class and break schedules to ensure she can be monitored for safety purposes; check in with her weekly for emotional support; grant her immediate access to a trusted advisor or mentor; re-evaluate the safety plan in January and address and investigate all concerns about racism and discrimination at Temecula Valley High School.
Characterizations of the next part of that contract, however, begin to differ between Husband and the district.
The second half of the contract stipulates that she “will not engage in any of the following behaviors and or activities that would violate 48900 Ed Codes and cooperate with TVHS Administration and Staff to support the safety plan.”
The district asks the student to “discontinue negatively naming or picturing TVHS students/teams/activities on social media or other related outlets;” “discontinue using the threat of negatively naming students on social media in retaliation for students not participating in conversation with you;” “not publicly confronting students about racism and alleged racism in person and/or social media;” “discontinue videoing (sic) students or staff for non-educational purposes or without teacher or administration authorization – comply with Educational Code 51512 (use of electronic or recording devices in school);” “report all allegations of discrimination, racism, etc. (sic) to TVHS administration – the principal or assistant principal;” “report directly to TVHS administration incidences of teachers or staff members not addressing students who are allegedly making racist or discriminatory statements;” and “discontinue verbally confronting students on campus about alleged racism.”
The contract ends by stating “Student agrees to comply with Ed Code provisions, TVHS Administration, and Staff Directive to ensure proper implementation of safety plan.”
Boss confirmed the authenticity of the safety plan contract but said it was an “initial draft discussion document to the family which was designed to begin a dialogue about concerns and how the site could address and best support the student.”
“During the meeting there were six different drafts written,” Boss said. “At the conclusion of the meeting, we collectively decided to review the goals of the safety plan independently and allow for the site and Student Welfare and Success to take into consideration the input of the parents and the student before coming back together to draft the final Safety Support Plan.”
Husband said she and her family immediately refused to sign the document, saying she felt it was a betrayal of the points discussed in her previous meeting with the district.
“I felt manipulated because they were telling me, basically, ‘Yeah, just tell your followers to just trust us. Be on our side now, the school is gonna do what we’re supposed to do,’” Husband said. “And then we have the meeting with the safety plan, and they give me this contract basically telling me that I can’t talk about racism on social media and in school, I can’t videotape … it’s basically telling me if you be quiet and let us do our job, we’ll protect you.”
Christina Laster, who is education chairwoman for the Southwest Riverside County branch of the NAACP and was part of the discussions, blasted the safety plan contract.
“From a civil rights perspective, we see these things all the time. Basically when you have a black student that starts to advocate or become vocal about discriminatory practices or issues on school campuses, it’s almost like there’s a lot of pushback but really more so they try to criminalize the student, and that’s even a worse practice,” Laster said. “You shouldn’t criminalize the student or the parents. To me this just reflects the fact that the system is unrelenting in their position and unwilling to change and progress in (the) right direction.”
Laster said it appeared to her that Temecula Valley Unified was blaming Husband for racism and discrimination rather than trying to combat those problems.
“So in their attempt to quiet her and also in an attempt … . (to) make an example even of the things they say she has done, this is what we have,” Laster said.
The school district disputed those descriptions of the safety plan.
“The initial starting point draft discussion document shared with you has unfortunately been misrepresented,” Boss said. “This has been a process that has involved the student and family, along with site and district administrators as active participants to help determine what is in the best interest of the student. A safety plan is customized to each student based on a process of mutual discussion with the involved parties to ensure that it can be effectively supported. There has to be a starting point and the items contained in the initial draft were discussion points to begin the dialogue about concerns from the student and site.”
Husband said she does not “see how a contract that they wrote could be misrepresented.”
“It’s exactly what they wrote,” Husband said. “It said in the contract you will not talk about racial issues on campus, you will not talk about racial issues on social media – it’s basically a way to take my right to free speech.”
She also said she thought it completely contradicted the district’s position on the subject of her very first complaint – when it was first noticed that a TVHS student had painted a Confederate flag on his parking space at the beginning of the school year, the district’s initial response was that the flag “was a matter of free speech” and that administrators “didn’t have cause to remove” painting at the time.
When the parents of the student who painted the flag did eventually agree to paint over it, TVHS Principal Allen Williams expressed that he felt it was unfortunate it had gotten to that point.
“Because here’s what I especially feel bad about – if the intent of putting the flag there was just to celebrate a movie, the family spent eight hours putting that symbol down,” Williams said at the time. “Then it becomes more emotional to have to remove that, and I think that’s difficult and I don’t feel good about doing that, but based on the circumstances and based on the growing concerns that were expressed about that being on campus, we had to.”
Husband said that response to the Confederate flag and the district’s later response to her advocacy against racism and discrimination were at odds.
“I think it’s totally unfair for (TVHS Principal Williams) to defend a Confederate flag being painted but you’re not gonna defend my right to free speech, to speak out about racism and discrimination,” Husband said.
Boss said another meeting was scheduled for Dec. 19 to further discuss a safety plan for Husband. On Dec. 21, Husband said she and her family did not agree to the document they were presented with at that meeting, either.
Prior to the latest meeting, yet another racist act directed at Husband occurred on campus. Graffiti using the N-word to refer to her was discovered on campus Dec. 18. The district condemned the latest graffiti and said the matter was under investigation.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Husband as president of Temecula Valley High School’s Black Student Union. Valley News regrets the error.