In response to the surfacing of screenshots of a group chat that contained heinous violent images and content of a racist nature, a group of four Vista Murrieta High School graduates is circulating a letter campaign call to action to influence change that they say is needed in the Murrieta Unified School District.
Mili Patel, at 2016 VMHS graduate and graduate of UCLA, sent the letter to Valley News on Saturday night.
“Myself along with other VMHS alumni across many years have written a call to action for diversity, equality and inclusion addressed to the Murrieta Valley Unified School District,” she said in the email.
The letter was also signed by 2015 graduates John Bennett (Colgate 2019 and current Stanford PhD student) and Jet Lewis (SUNY ESF 2019 and current masters student at Tufts University), and Tori Paller, class of 2017 and student at Dixie State.
Collectively, they wrote in an open letter to the school district, “As former students of the MVUSD, we wish to express our major concerns over racism and abuse of power within the Murrieta school system.
“We are indebted to Vista Murrieta High School for being a wonderful community to begin our young adult lives in,” the letter continues. “However, we are extremely disappointed, deeply hurt, and beyond upset that these values have not been upheld by those in positions of power in the MVUSD both at the school and the district-wide levels. It has recently come to our attention that a select group of students made racist remarks about the Black community during their time at VMHS. These conversations included immensely degrading comments about Black and Jewish communities, comparing each group to animals while using blatantly racist and demeaning language. This is not an isolated incident; we are learning more about other racial incidents from our peers which occurred before and after these specific images came to light. This has been just one of many racially charged acts of violence within our schools. It is, unfortunately, one of the few actually recognized and brought into the public light. This is a call to action to facilitate a conversation around such an important issue so that we can create concrete initiatives that both strengthen current programs and establish new ones focused on uplifting our fellow peers from disadvantaged and minority communities.”
The letter written by the four graduates goes on to include a list of initiatives that they believe if implemented by the district, would be beneficial to all students.
Those initiatives include updated representations of black history curriculum, including analysis of current race-centered events with the inclusion of non-white authors; school level objectives to address diversity, equity and inclusion; the establishment of a race, equity and inclusion task force including all stakeholders within the district; and a student handbook that addresses hate crimes and racism.
They also called for the establishment of a system where accusations of racism, hate speech, bullying, harassment and assault are filed at the school and district level for the sake of oversight and accountability.
The group called for sensitivity training for all faculty and staff as well as longterm training programs pertaining to diversity, equality, and inclusion.
They also requested responses from the entirety of the MVUSD school board about ways they can implement change using their role within the district.
The letter calls for a resources library on the school district web page, as well as individual school websites, that would include names of movies, podcasts, books, artists, and more for students and parents to learn about systemic racism.
Finally, they demanded a timeline for implementing the initiatives listed in the letter.
“This is just the beginning and as we work together with our community members, we hope to use their voices to add to the list of concrete ways that we can work together to make the MVUSD better and safer for our students now and to come,” the letter states. “We hope that you recognize the urgency of this matter, and look forward to hearing your response.”
Valley News sent an email request for comment from MVUSD on the call to action letter on Sunday night.
The letter, which was presented as a Google Doc, was shared throughout social media on Saturday and was still circulating on Sunday. It requests that anyone within the Murrieta community who wishes to support the initiatives to sign the letter.
The letter can be viewed at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdylN4Kbyc9mI6tR4MHMYrJ_JMEGX0WGCz0GBZKb6Ywlo6m7g/viewform.
Valley News reported on the social media screenshot posts hit the internet on Friday. The original story can be read by visiting https://myvalleynews.com/screenshots-of-racist-group-chat-involving-former-vmhs-students-surfaces/.
Along with multiple screenshots of the group chat, the young woman, who is not being identified by Valley News, posted the images on social media and indicated that in 2015 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.”
One of the people involved in the group chat is Taylor Daniel, a former student at VMHS, who is the son of current MVUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Darren Daniel.
Both Darren and Taylor Daniel have issued statements expressing regrets regarding the chat group.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.