Contacts: Attorney James Allen at 707-525-8525 or Mike Myslinski in CTA Communications, 650-552-5324.
CTA’s Human Rights and Community Outreach Department will be doing “unconscious bias” training at Waldo Rohnert Elementary after the only African-American teacher there said she was told someone hung a garden hose in a tree by her kindergarten classroom that was fashioned into a noose.
Sonoma County educator Enid Pickett said the March 1 incident was a “hate crime” and the fourth racially charged incident at her school in the past 11 years. Pickett is not holding her principal at fault in any way, but is offended that the superintendent of the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District later said, after a re-creation of the noose, that it looked more like a “swing” to her.
“This lack of regard from the district concerning this noose incident clearly shows a lack of respect for me as an African-American teacher,” Pickett said. “I don’t think the superintendent took this incident seriously enough.”
While Superintendent Barbara Vrankovich refused CTA’s offer to hold the unconscious bias training district-wide, an introduction to the training will be given to the staff of Waldo Rohnert Elementary at the start of the new school year on Aug. 25. The training is free and is designed to improve interpersonal relations while looking at tolerance issues as well. Pickett wants the training to be for all district employees, and wants the district’s employee handbook to address laws and procedures about hate crimes.
The March 1 incident apparently involved vandals at the school during the night. Pickett said a janitor told her he came to work that morning and took the noose-fashioned garden hose out of a tree that is about 15 feet from the front door of her classroom. Beer cans were also found on the school roof. The March issue of the Waldo Rohnert school newsletter for parents warned about vandalism and stated that “a hose was found in a tree with a loop on the end that looked like it could be a noose. This creates an unsafe environment for our school and community.” The janitor told Pickett he took the noose down because he did not want children to see it.
Pickett described three other racial incidents at the school: In May 2004, the word “nigger” was written several times on the back of her classroom door; in January 2003, someone shot paintballs at a classroom window that had a poster of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hanging on it; in April 1999, a fourth-grade student in her class allegedly brought an explosive device to school, but he was removed without incident.
The 325,000-member CTA is affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.