San Diego

Principal Apologizes for Cautionary Email Seen As Racist By Some Parents

An email sent to parents by a school principal that was meant to provoke caution instead stirred outrage by some in the community who felt the message was racist.

La Jolla Elementary School Principal Donna Tripi sent an email to parents Monday detailing an incident at a local business reported to her by a parent. On Wednesday she called the message a mistake and apologized.

Tripi’s email said the mother was at a store with her two children when “an African American male about 30 years old, about 6’ 1” – 6’ 12”, dressed in all black and a hooded sweatshirt” stared at her daughter.

The mother left the store and was followed across the street by the man, according to Tripi.

Tripi ended the letter with a bullet point list of safety recommendations for parents in public with children.

“While nothing happened due to the vigilance of the parent, I am communicating the incident so that you can take appropriate steps to keep your children safe,” the email said.

Some parents were angered by the email and said it was racially motivated because there was no proof of criminal activity.

“So now we the La Jolla Elementary School Community has been warned to be careful of black men that are 6 feet tall and wearing hoodies. That's inappropriate"

Not all parents took it the same way.

“No, I didn't take it that way,” Galen Cathalinat said. “I thought that maybe they didn't think or get all their facts straight before sending it but I didn't think it was racially motivated at all," education reform advocate Sally Smith said.

The School District did not comment but Tripi sent a follow-up email Wednesday apologizing for her wording.

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

The school has planned a community meeting regarding the incident for Monday at 6 p.m. in the library. Attorney and former County Supervisor candidate Omar Passons will facilitate the meeting.

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