Rialto Unified superintendent target of death threats, racist fliers
Capt. Randy DeAnda, spokesman for the Rialto Police Department, said the department is investigating both death threats and racist literature left for Cebrun, who is black, to find.
"During the layoffs, hang-up calls and name-calling come with the territory, since emotions and tensions run high," district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri said. "But after recognizing that these were blatant racist fliers, bigoted words were being printed to describe his specific ethnic origin, the superintendent found it increasingly difficult to brush it off. It is inappropriate, inexcusable and it has become quite obvious that the direction of this action is resulting from pure hate."
Rialto Unified pink-slipped 101 teachers and 124 nonteacher employees in March.
"There are still elements in the community that are back with racial hatred. They're back decades," school board member Joe Martinez said. "Now, it's rearing its ugly head."
The fliers, which started being sent in April, include pictures of gorillas with messages written on them like "you people are trained to run, so run" and "(racial epithet) go home." The literature has been mailed to Cebrun and dropped through an open car window. His car has also been keyed, and a Mexican flag has been mailed to him.
"The board saw what it was, and they're things that are just horrible," Martinez said. "I wouldn't want to say those (things) to anybody. I wouldn't want to hear them."
Although DeAnda would not provide details, he said the department was working on the case, which they're investigating as a hate crime, "very aggressively."
"Hate should have no place at our schools or, quite frankly, in our world," Jafri said. "Hate and bigotry are often actions that are learned behaviors. We recognize it, are deeply disappointed by it and will work with the authorities any way we can to assist with the investigation."
According to Rialto Unified's 2011-12 District Accountability Report Card, the then 26,764 student body was 13.7 percent black, 78.7 percent Hispanic and 4.6 percent white.
"We believe that, in Rialto, everybody's important," school board President Joe Ayala said. "We don't discount people: We give them opportunities. These people who are lashing out, (and) we'd like to tell them there are better ways to communicate."
This isn't the first time racial tensions have reared their head in Rialto Unified:
Earlier this spring, a girls' bathroom at Rialto High School was also covered with graffiti attacking black students, Jafri said. San Bernardino City police investigated the incident. The school is 75 percent Latino, according to the California Department of Education's most recent Academic Performance Index data.
In 2010, self-proclaimed white supremacist Dan Schruender sought a seat on the Rialto Unified school board. He ended up coming in last place, garnering only 9.64 percent of the vote, with voters instead choosing a black woman and Hispanic man.
"In education, we constantly deal with gray matter," Martinez said. "That's the color that we work with; it's not any other color."
Staff writer Doug Saunders contributed to this story.