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La Jolla principal apologizes for email warning of black man at Starbucks

Posted: 3:09 PM, Oct 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-18 00:44:49Z

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A principal in La Jolla apologized after sending an email to parents she says unintentionally reinforced stereotypes.

La Jolla Elementary School Principal Donna Tripi last month sent an email after two parents expressed concern over a man they believed was following a parent and her two children out of a Starbucks and across the street.

In the email, Tripi described the man as “an African American male, about 30 years old, about 6’1” tall, wearing a hooded sweatshirt.” Tripi added in an apology email that she was passing along the description she was given.

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“My email was a mistake. While it is critical to keep our school family safe, the way I communicated didn't provide enough specifics to identify the individual, but could easily lead to unnecessary and harmful reactions against other members of our community.”

As a result of the incident, the school is hosting a “conversation” on Monday, October 22 at 6 p.m. where parents can gather and ask questions.

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Read the full email below:

Dear families,

As a school community, we pride ourselves on being open to difficult conversations on anything that stands in the way of our students' success. It is time for one of those conversations.

Last month, I emailed you after two parents expressed concern over a man who they reasonably believed started following one of the parents and her two children out of a Starbucks and across the street. I relayed the description of that man, as he was described to me, an African American male, about 30 years old, about 6'1" tall, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, along with the limited details I was given about the incident.

My email was a mistake. While it is critical to keep our school family safe, the way I communicated didn't provide enough specifics to identify the individual, but could easily lead to unnecessary and harmful reactions against other members of our community.

African American males continue to face discrimination in our society every day. The thought that I unintentionally contributed to that climate with a vague email is something for which I owe our community an apology.

More than this, I would like to invite you to a conversation on the ways we can support all families in our school community next Monday, October 22nd, from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. in the school library, facilitated by Omar Passons, attorney and community leader. I recognize that we have families in our community who have been hurt by my communication -- and some who may have unintentionally had stereotypes reinforced that our schools do not want to perpetuate.

I spoke to the parents directly and am confident the concern they described was not imagined. We want parents to be vigilant, but as a leader, I also want our school community to be a place that doesn't cause preventable harm. There is room for a productive dialogue among all members of our community. I hope you'll join us.

I hope that through dialogue we can move towards a common understanding of one another and heal any harms. Please make time to join us if you are available. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Donna S. Tripi, Principal