School District to Discipline 27 Students Involved in Black Baby Doll Incident

By Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.
September 2, 2021 Updated: September 2, 2021

Twenty-seven high school students in Salinas, California, will face consequences for participating in an incident involving crude and racially insensitive photos and videos of a black baby doll posted on Instagram.

Salinas Union High School District (SUHSD) Superintendent Dan Burns said in a video and written statement released Monday night that the district has concluded its investigation into the students’ “derogatory and harassing actions.”

The images showed the doll, named Shaniqua, being run over by a vehicle and posed in front of an ambulance. The doll had its eyes crossed out, with a bandana around its neck and what appeared to represent an ankle bracelet.

The incident has led to increased tensions in the community, which is already divided over the SUHSD’s controversial ethnic studies program and the teaching of critical race theory.

Burns issued an apology on behalf of SUHSD and school board members to the African American and black community “for impacts caused by the actions of students who participated in this unacceptable racially insensitive and intolerant incident.”

He said the district “acknowledges the pain caused for our African American and black students and staff, in particular our black female students who see themselves as represented in the black baby doll depicted in this event.”

Burns said an investigation into allegations made against “any and all staff members” by an outside agency is currently in progress.

“As for student involvement, the district has concluded its investigation into the derogatory and harassing actions exhibited in disturbing photos and videos,” he said.

Due to student privacy rights, SUHSD “is unable to disclose specific consequences for student behavior due to student privacy rights.”

The investigation found that the student responsible for creating the Instagram account got the doll from a local retail store. The student is not African American and is not an athlete or on the cheer team, Burns said.

The guilty group consisted of 15 Latino, nine white, two multi-racial, and one black student. They were identified via photos, videos, and interviews, according to the statement.

The district has already met with all the students and their families.

The students will face consequences according to varying levels of culpability. All of them must participate in “Anti-Racist Education training in addition to other determined consequences, including but not limited to disciplinary consequences and/or loss of extracurricular privileges,” Burns said.

“We realize that these unacceptable racially insensitive and harassing actions have impacted students, staff, and the community at large, thus we have begun working with various community partners and organizations to engage in the healing process. This process includes taking short-term and long-term actions to live up to the promise of the SUHSD Black Lives Matter/Social Justice Initiative,” Burns said.

Some of the actions to eliminate biases and racial microaggressions include engaging in:

• Meaningful and reflective conversations about the role of race in education in maintaining inequitable structures and practices;

• Professional Learning in antiracist and culturally responsive/sustaining pedagogies for staff;

• Anti-Racist education training for students and staff;

• Review of curriculum through a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion lens;

• Review and adjustment of disciplinary policies and practices;

• Training in restorative/transformational justice practices; and

• Continued implementation of Ethnic Studies as a graduation requirement for all students.

The district is also hiring a “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Coordinator” to help the SUHSD achieve “an unbiased and inclusive district free of discrimination, harassment and negative stereotypes toward any person or group,” Burns said.

“We recognize these steps represent only the beginning as we commit to working together to learn, heal, and enact positive change in our district and in our community,” he said.

Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.