Family files claim against Upland school district, alleging Black kids were targeted with racist abuse

Pepper Tree Elementary School
A series of racist incidents at Pepper Tree Elementary School in Upland has sparked outrage from parents and prompted district officials to respond.

A family has filed a legal claim against Upland Unified School District, alleging that their three children were targeted with racist drawings and abuse by other students at the elementary school.

The claim comes a week after a series of racist incidents at Pepper Tree Elementary School sparked outrage from parents.

In the precursor to a lawsuit filed Monday, Rome and Maylana Douglas claim that their three children, who attend the elementary school, “suffered physical and irreparable emotional injuries,” despite administrators and officials being notified that the kids were being bullied.


The Douglas’ 12-year-old boys began attending Pepper Tree in August 2016, and their 9-year-old daughter began attending in August 2019.

Upland Unified School District officials declined to comment Tuesday but previously condemned the allegations in a YouTube video.

Upland school board president Sherman Garnett acknowledged in the video that “racially insensitive, unacceptable incidents” had occurred.

“We deeply regret the hurt this behavior has caused our students, families and our community,” he said. “I want to make it perfectly clear that we have a strict zero-tolerance policy on any type of hate speech, harassment, discriminatory practices, behaviors, racial slurs, and any reports of these actions will be investigated thoroughly and immediately.”

The Upland Unified School District “will implement disciplinary action in these situations without hesitation,” Garnett said, though he didn’t elaborate.

According to the claim, one of the children was subject to “disparate treatment” during physical education class, including not being allowed to participate and “forced to lean against a chain link fence,” according to the claim. The parents allege that accommodations were also provided for white children and not to the Douglas children on the basis of race.


One of the Douglas children was accused of “bringing a weapon to school for the purposes of attacking teachers,” but he had actually brought his Agate rock collection, the parents alleged.

During the pandemic, the children were subjected to “electronic racial attacks by the way of the school’s learning program,” according to the claim. The kids were sent links that when clicked, would open images of the N-word and monkeys.

The Douglas children were also called “monkeys” and “apes” by other students and subjected to “monkey calls,” according to their parents. They were asked to sign “Golden N-Word” cards, because carrying them meant they would get “better treatment” than other Black children.

One of the sons was also “depicted as an effigy being hung from a tree.”

The Douglases allege that they reported the racial abuse to school officials, who promised that they would initiate diversity training to staff and teachers, but nothing was done.

Their children, the Douglases say, suffered emotional and mental distress, the “loss of ability to focus on school” and civil rights violations. They’re seeking damages in excess of $10,000.