La Jolla Elementary School principal apologizes for email warning parents

SAN DIEGO – The La Jolla Elementary School principal apologized this week for an email to parents that she says unintentionally perpetuated stereotypes about black people, it was reported Thursday.

Last month, Principal Donna Tripi warned parents in an email about a man who had allegedly stared at and followed a parent’s daughter to a local Starbucks, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Tripi described the man in her email as “an African American male about 30 years old, about 6’1”-6’2, dressed in all black and a hooded sweatshirt, according to the Union-Tribune. The email went on to give parents security tips “to keep your children safe,” including calling the police “if you see something that doesn’t feel right.”

“We’re all hoping it was an isolated incident,” Tripi wrote in the email, “but reminders are always helpful.”

This week, Tripi sent another email to parents apologizing for her vague description of the man.

“My email was a mistake. 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,” Tripi wrote in the email. “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.”

Andre Branch, president of the San Diego Branch of the NAACP, told the Union-Tribune that he took as much issue with Tripi’s second email as the first one.

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

Out of 535 students enrolled at La Jolla Elementary last fall, five were black, the Union-Tribune reported. The school didn’t employ any black teachers last school year and 28 out of 31 teachers were white.

The school will hold a forum on Monday at 6 p.m. regarding the matter and how to “support all families” at the school, Tripi wrote in the email.

The community forum will be facilitated by Omar Passons, a black attorney and community leader who recently ran unsuccessfully for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, according to the Union-Tribune.

Passons told the newspaper he reached out to school district officials after he saw Tripi’s first email posted on social media.