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Race & Social Justice

San Dieguito Academy defaced again with racial, homophobic slurs

For the second time in the last few months, someone has spray-painted hateful graffiti at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas. The district is investigating, but KPBS Reporter Melissa Mae says parents and community activists want more.

For the second time in the last few months, someone has spray-painted hateful graffiti at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas.

"I wasn't surprised. I wasn't in shock. I honestly said to myself, 'Really again,'" said one student who did not want to be identified.

At 3:55 a.m. on New Year's Day, a single youth spray-painted the front of San Dieguito Academy with racist and homophobic slurs. On Monday, students, parents and community leaders came together for a rally.

"I was not surprised in the slightest and it's disappointing to know I honestly felt no reaction," said Aya Jaffer, a junior at San Dieguito Academy High School. "It was obviously disheartening, but it's happened so many times, it's become nothing new."
She said she doesn't feel safe in the district.

"I feel like we're constantly. I never know what's going to happen," Jaffer said. "There's constant threats and especially this year in particular. It has felt rockier than ever to be a marginalized student in this district, and it feels scary, and it feels unsafe."
Yusef Miller from the North County Equity and Justice Coalition said the graffiti was hate speech and evidence of a systemic problem at the district.

"We're here to denounce the hateful speech that was spray-painted on the walls of this building, which has been removed," Miller said. "This is not an issue of a one-off. This is an issue of a systemic problem that has been going on in San Dieguito Unified for years."
Leaders from the North County LGBTQ Resource Center and the NAACP were also present at the rally and are calling upon the San Dieguito Union High School District to take action.

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Superintendent Dr. Cheryl James-Ward could not make it to the rally Monday but said she is open to meeting with all community leaders.

"We're becoming a no place for hate district-wide. We're becoming a 'no place for hate' district," she said. "Every school is a no-place-for-hate school now and we are starting our training with the Anti-Defamation League."

James-Ward has been a resident of Encinitas for over 15 years. She said the San Dieguito School District does have issues and appreciates the community's efforts.

"I appreciate the grassroots efforts, but I did not want today to be political. It's not political for me. It's about kids and it's about ensuring the kids get what they need," she said. "There's a lot of trauma and I don't want this to be political."

The school district is working to identify the youth, and although James-Ward cannot guarantee that vandalism will not happen again.

"I can offer for sure the things that we're doing to change," she said. "Like diversity, equity and inclusion training from the County Office of Ed that is happening with all of our campuses."

James-Ward said that staff and student leaders would also take part in training from the Anti-defamation League.

Jaffer is a Muslim-Arab American and has a message for anyone affected by the recent event.

"You 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. "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."