La Jolla School Principal Apologizes For Email Warning Parents About Black Man At Starbucks

Poster like illustration about Black and White race relations using words and icons as design elements to show some of the issues that arise when racial harmony or discord are discussed.
Jim Larkin / Shutterstock

A California elementary school principal apologized this week after she sent out an email earlier warning parents about a black male who allegedly stared at and followed a young girl in a Starbucks, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Donna Tripi, of La Jolla Elementary School, explained that in hindsight, she believed the email unintentionally perpetuated a stereotype about African-American males. The school will conduct a forum next week on how to “support all families” at the school, Tripi said, per the newspaper.

The controversy started last month when Tripi sent out an email to parents describing an unknown male who appeared to stare and follow the girl into the coffee establishment, the Union-Tribune wrote.

The person question was described as “an African-American male about 30 years old, about 6’1″-6’2″ dressed in all black and a hooded sweatshirt,” the newspaper noted. The email added security tips and urged them to call the police “if you see something that doesn’t feel right.”

Tripi sent out an email this week apologizing for the earlier email. She said while the initial email was vague in its description, she realized how it could paint black males.

“My email was a mistake,” Tripi wrote, according to the Union-Tribune. “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,” she continued.

Tripi, though, defended the fear of the parent who brought the male to her attention and said she was “confident the concern they described was not imagined.”

Illustration of the flag of the United States with the stripes changing to black and white, and symbols representing the black and white population
Illustration of the flag of the United States with the stripes changing to black and white, and symbols representing the black and white population. Jim Larkin / Shutterstock

Andre Branch, president of the San Diego NAACP, told the Union-Tribune that he was bothered by Tripi’s apology.

“She repeats the description of the man, mentioning his race, but not that of the parents or the children,” Branch said to the newspaper. “This repetition reinforces the idea that the parents and their children have something to fear from African-American men.”

“If their concern had nothing to do with this man’s race, it would not have been mentioned,” he continued.

Amie Zamudio, an activist with San Diego’s Racial Justice Coalition, who is white, said Monday’s forum is a chance for a teachable moment.

“You don’t realize if you’re a white person in a white community what’s happening with racism,” Zamudio, told the Union-Tribune. “We are really hoping this will segue past a one-hour meeting, and let’s have a real discussion about our bias.”