Racist Poster Rattles and Empowers San Rafael Community


Ingrid Martinez, Contributor

Only 5 minutes away from downtown San Rafael, San Pedro Elementary school lies in the midst of a white neighborhood.

98% of San Pedro students are Hispanic or Latino. Parents in the neighborhood choose to send their kids to another school, Glenwood Elementary. While students learn about the historical struggles to desegregate schools, they attend one. 

On December 5, 2019, the San Rafael community was shaken by a racist poster displayed at San Pedro Elementary. The poster read, “Got English?” The superintendent wrote a message, urging an open house at the school inviting neighbors and families nearby.

In the message, which was sent to parents, teachers, administrators, and other community members, Superintendent Jim Hogeboom wrote, “Some people are driven by fear, and don’t want things to change.” The open house addressed the issue of segregation in schools. But with not all parents being able to attend the open house, Hogeboom took it a step further and wrote a newsletter entitled “Reflections on Equity.”

In the newsletter, Hogeboom says that San Pedro has an enrollment of 522 students: 85% are English learners, 85% are socioeconomically disadvantaged and 24% are homeless. He additionally mentions that a major issue concerning our community is segregation. And finding a poster that puts students down was an eye-opener that kids all around marin are being bullied or put down for being different.    

  “My hope is that we realize our common bonds as humans, and that we celebrate our differences instead of being afraid of them and criticizing others for these differences,” said Hogebooom. This demonstrates how important it is for leaders of our schools to address the issue of segregation by adding new core values which include equity. This reaction had a big impact on parents about how they felt regarding this issue being resolved.

Mariela Salmón, mother of 2 students who currently attend San Pedro, was speechless when she found out about the sign. “I didn’t know what to think or what to do. I simply think it’s not okay to target innocent kids.” She mentioned how grateful she was that Hogeboom took his time to address the issue and raise awareness. 

Although it may be concerning to parents, it’s shocking to find out that some kids feel more comfortable being surrounded by people who speak their first language. San Rafael High School senior Evelyn Cifuentes stated, “When I was a student at San Pedro, I felt comfortable knowing I could speak Spanish freely and not be judged.” San Rafael High School junior Kimberly agreed, “As someone who attended San Pedro, it felt very welcoming because everyone there was hispanic. It felt like a party.”

For a camp, in November of last year, I was put in charge of ten girls for a week, 8 from San Pedro and 3 from Glenwood. Throughout the week all 8 girls sat and played together while the other 3 girls would read together or sleep. In some cases, school rivalries got the best of them and the 8 girls would speak in Spanish in order for the other three to not understand. Kids only perform what they’ve been taught. They have been segregated their entire ten years of life.

The lack of education and ignorance sets our evolving culture one step back. Some are scared that their culture is changing and attack others and blame them for the change. At the same time, others realize they are being introduced to a new world of food, music, and traditions. 

Marin holds various places which are starting to expand its most well known culture, which is feared by many. What those fail to realize is that they live in Mission San Rafael Arcángel, founded as the 20th Spanish mission in the colonial Mexican province of Alta California by three priests. It is important for people to realize that they live in a community made up of different cultures that have already influenced the way everyone lives and thinks, in a positive way by adding new opportunities to our youth. 

Marin City School District has now adopted a new motto “We Are One,” which is a motto that includes values that will teach children to love one another and to celebrate our differences and different cultures. As the years go by, new generations will be taught that we are all equal and that being different has its advantages.