Bullard Student in Racist Photo Avoids Expulsion. District Outlines ‘Inclusive Culture’ Steps. - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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Bullard Student in Racist Photo Avoids Expulsion. District Outlines ‘Inclusive Culture’ Steps.

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Edison High School students marched in protest of a controversial photo posted to social media in May. (GV Wire File)
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Unspecified disciplinary action has been taken against the students involved in a controversial photo posted to social media that appeared to show a student with a KKK hood, Fresno Unified School District announced Monday evening.

However, the district said it could not share details of the discipline taken due to student privacy.

Fresno attorney Charles Manock, who with attorney Steve Smith represented the Bullard High School student in the photograph, said the student was not expelled. In the photo, the student is wearing a piece of white fabric that apparently was pulled up by another student so that it resembled a KKK hood.

Manock said he could not comment on a report that the district determined that the student in the photo had been “set up” by other students.

Fresno Unified “did not have the facts or the law” to support expulsion, Manock said. “Having legal representation was crucial. … Without attorneys he would have been at a distinct disadvantage. My opinion FUSD would not have settled but for his attorneys.”

Manock said the other involved students “should have been represented” by attorneys. Community members and Bullard staffers have identified the other students as twin brothers in foster care.

Taking Steps to Meet Demands

In response to a series of demands made by the district’s Black Student Unions in connection with the social media post, Fresno Unified said it was taking a number of steps.

“These actions were first shared with our BSU advisors and students as promised,” the district said in a news release. “There is much work to continue to be done and we are committed to doing what it takes to develop and sustain a safe, inclusive culture across Fresno Unified School District.”

The steps that the district has taken or is taking include:

  • Enrolling the Bullard students involved in the photo in cultural sensitivity training.
  • Taking disciplinary actions against the Bullard staff members who were supervising the students involved with the photo and assigning cultural sensitivity training “when appropriate,” pending the outcome of an external investigation. Bullard staffers and community members have previously said, however, that the students in the weight room were not being supervised when the photo was shot.
  • Announcements, staff meetings, and written communications to students and families from Principal Armen Torigian on the culturally destructive nature of racism. Torigian, who was appointed the school’s principal midway through the school year, also has met with BSU students and has been involved in planning with clubs, advisers and “affinity groups” into long-range planning around school culture.
  • Recruiting and retaining black faculty and administrators. The district is collaborating with “affinity groups” such as Men of Color in Educational Leadership and Black Women Educators United. Fresno Unified also is using a Wallace Foundation grant to develop the Equity Centered Pipeline Initiative to recruit, promote, and retain leaders who are people of color.
  • Adding a Race & Social Action Student Advisory Board member at high schools, and adding one representative from that board as the third student board member on the Board of Education. The district also committed to relaunching the Student Voice Collaborative that will meet quarterly with the superintendent and deputy superintendent.

Other Actions

The district reported that it has taken other actions, including developing a new “first four-hour response protocol” when responding to culturally destructive events, updating the Parent Student Handbook with the district’s response to racism, and continuing to work on developing “culturally proficient” leaders and staff.

The photo of a Bullard student with the white head covering was first posted on May 4, but the district’s response two days later came only after Black Student Union members and community members had begun expressing their outrage publicly.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email