Monte Vista High School was cast into the national spotlight this week after a video showing a female student use a racial slur in sign language went viral -- the most recent in an unfortunate trend of racist incidents that have targeted African Americans, according to administrators at the Danville school.
While using Omegle -- a social media site where users can video chat with strangers -- the teen girl, who is white, can be seen calling the African American male she was chatting with the N-word in American sign language, doing so several times throughout the video.
The male -- who is apparently not a Monte Vista student himself and does not know sign language -- repeatedly asked the girl what she was saying, but she cut the video off without verbally telling him.
He later posted footage of their split-screen Omegle conversation on social media. The video has since reached more than 2.5 million views on Twitter and has been featured on most major Bay Area news publications.
The girl was subsequently identified as a Monte Vista student.
School district officials have acknowledged the incident and local connection, but said they could not confirm publicly whether the student was disciplined.
In a letter sent out to Monte Vista parents and community members on Wednesday, principal Kevin Ahern said that while his school and staff work to create an inclusive and tolerant space, these racist incidents continue to arise, and that one racial group in particular is more often than not the target.
"While we condemn all acts of racism on our campus, I am being intentionally specific with you about this most recent incident because when these incidents occur, they most frequently victimize African American students," Ahern said. "The need is clear for a fundamental shift in mentality for a portion of our population and I pledge to lead this campus in making that shift."
Earlier in December, Ahern had alerted the community of "several racist incidents where students of color have experienced harassment from other students" that have plagued the school.
While not going into specifics on those incidents, in an email Ahern said the behavior is "completely unacceptable" and will not be tolerated by the school or district, further encouraging students to report such incidents to a teacher, administrator or through the school's anonymous timeline if they witness or are subjected to racist behavior.
To combat racist happenings, Ahern says that the school embraces programs like Breaking Down the Walls, Fresh Start and Rising Black Scholars, and plans to support African American students by partnering with experts, such as the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Equity Team, to find optimal ways to work with students and combat bigotry.
"This problem cannot be solved today. It may not be solved tomorrow or even next week, but it will not be tolerated," he said. "We will talk about race and racism honestly and openly. Our desire is that every member of the Monte Vista community, from teachers to custodians to volunteers to administrators, will speak up when they hear a racial slur being used or a racist joke being told."
Ahern added that in cases such as these there are severe consequences for racist perpetrators involved.
According to the California School Dashboard, Monte Vista is predominantly white, with Caucasian students populating 59.1% of the school, followed by Asian students who account for 20.5% of the population and then Hispanic students who populate 8.7% of the school. Out of the 2,448 students who populate Monte Vista, only 14 (0.6%) identify as African American.
Reciting a quote that he heard about the impact racism has on himself and his school community, Ahern said: "A school climate that encourages inclusion and promotes tolerance does not guarantee that bias incidents won't happen. Instead, it creates an atmosphere in which these acts are less likely to gain momentum and more likely to be quickly and widely denounced."
Editor's note: DanvilleSanRamon.com is not identifying the young people nor posting a direct link to the video because those involved are believed to be minors.