A 16-year-old African-American student at Monte Vista High School in Danville, California went to the bathroom during fifth period on Wednesday and spotted the words "whites" and "colored" scrawled on the wall over the urinal.
He stopped in tracks. But not before snapping a photo of the words, which he texted to his parents.
"I immediately responded to my son, 'I'm so sorry you have to experience this,'" the boy's mother, LaLene Shepherd told NBC Bay Area on Thursday, her voice getting emotional, her eyes welling up with tears.
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He responded to her, "I know, I'm so sad."
Shepherd did not want her son's name to be used, but she and her husband, a physicist in the East Bay, are both very distraught. She said her son and his twin sister are two of about two dozen African-American students at the mostly white school.
She laughed, but would not comment, when asked if she thought the school atmosphere had been overtly racist in the past. But she did commend the principal of the school and San Ramon Unified School District Supt. Rick Schmitt for their actions and words in the light the bigotry — the second such overt act within the district in less than a month, and part of a growing epidemic of racism being reported anecdotally across the country.
Principal Kevin Ahern said the graffiti was immediately removed and he held a Thursday morning school wide assembly, telling students to unite and not "fall into that trap" of being divided. Students also held an afternoon rally to decry the urinal grafitti. Several students on social media said they were hurting to know that the "hatred is this close to home."
Student Serene Foote added, "It's completely horrible."
A month ago, Schmitt told his community that enough is enough, referencing another time in October when the same segregation-era words were written on the walls of another school bathroom in the same district.
"I am all too aware of how far we have come as a nation in our pursuit of treating all people with dignity and respect," Schmitt wrote. "And yet, events across the nation and in our own community continue to demonstrate the need to teach our children about tolerance and cross-cultural understanding."
Schmitt referenced the "divisive presidential campaign" as possible motivation for these type of acts, and said that there were "two ugly incidents" of racist graffiti at California High School in San Ramon discovered in late October. In that case, a student came forward and confessed.
At Monte Vista High School, officials say they are working with Danville police to determine who is behind the latest incident of hateful vandalism.
Throughout the Bay Area and the nation, racist attacks, verbal and physical, are being reported at an alarming rate, according to hate-tracking groups. And many are blaming President-elect Donald Trump — a favorite of the "alt right" and the Ku Klux Klan — as the culprit for unleashing pent-up racist emotions. As recent as Sunday, however, Trump, in an interview on 60 Minutes said he was unaware of these hate crimes, but told America, if true, to "stop it."
The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking hate-filled harassment since Trump was elected. Between Nov. 9 and Monday, the group has collected a total of 437 reports since the day after Trump came to power.
The law center has no numbers to compare that to. It is the first time the center has tracked post-presidential election data.
Heidi Beirich, director of the center's intelligence project, said this week in an email, however, that this is "truly a frightening number."