By Ken Epstein
Chabot Elementary School in the Rockridge District of North Oakland was evacuated Tuesday after receiving a racist bomb threat and “multiple threatening emails, phone calls and social media posts,” according to statements released by the Oakland Unified School District.
The threats came in response to an on-campus “Playdate” organized by Chabot’s Equity and Inclusion Committee last Saturday, “which was intended to build and promote positive affinity spaces for students and families of color,” wrote OUSD Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, in an email to the public-school community.
These incidents are being taken seriously by the school district and the Oakland Police Department, and the FBI is “now involved in this active investigation,” wrote the superintendent.
The bomb threat and threatening messages followed in the wake of comments by a right-wing social media commentator who denounced the school community for organizing the playdate for families of color at the school.
Chabot Elementary, situated in an affluent Oakland neighborhood, has 560 students: 46% white, 13% Hispanic or Latino, 12% Black, 6% Asian, and 1% Hawaiian. Overall, the school district’s students are 11% white, 20% Black, 46% Latino, and 10% Asian.
Mayor Sheng Thao has committed to maintaining a police presence near the school for the rest of this week, and school district and city leaders, working with the school administration, will hold a community town hall next week.
“I am outraged that our children, educators and neighbors have been targeted by malicious threats,” said Thao. “My office is in contact with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) as we seek answers. We are monitoring the situation closely”.
District officials mobilized central office staff to offer “coordinated safety and mental health support in place” for students, families, and staff at the school.
At about 8 a.m. on Tuesday, district officials learned of the bomb threat against the school and relocated school’s students and staff to a baseball field next to the school and advised parents who were arriving to take their students home.
“Officers arrived shortly after, secured the campus and conducted a thorough bomb search, before declaring an all-clear for Chabot to reopen (Wednesday),” according to the superintendent’s statement.
The school district informed police about the threatening messages on Monday. OPD learned of the bomb threat Tuesday at about 7:30 a.m. and notified the school’s principal. Because the report came before the beginning of the school day, only about 30 students were on campus, said OPD Capt. Lisa Ausmus, quoted in Oaklandside.
Police officers and dogs from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office searched the school late Tuesday morning before announcing that the school was safe for students and staff to return.
“I will say that the (bomb threat) email has a racial undertone in it,” said Ausmus. “We’re currently investigating that right now. We have asked the FBI, and they’re going to come in and assist us with this investigation.”
Several parents who were involved in the school’s equity and inclusion group, which has been organizing the playdates for families of color at Chabot for the last few years, said that they began receiving hate emails and threats on Sunday after a flyer announcing the playdate was posted on Reddit, according to Oaklandside.
School Boardmember Sam Davis said in an interview with Oaklandside that the playdate “suddenly became a big deal” after the school district received “an inquiry from a conservative news site.”
He said the messages that were posted online about the playdate were “pretty hateful and just deeply offensive and racist. Just really awful stuff.”
In her letter to the school community, Supt. Johnson-Trammell pledged to protect Oakland students and families.
“OUSD remains, as always, committed to the physical safety and emotional well-being of our students, families and educators,” she wrote.
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