Santa Barbara Junior High Principal Daniel Dupont was placed on a week-long administrative leave this November, following an incident in which he used a racial slur in the presence of students. After an investigation conducted by the district, Dupont was allowed to resume his position as Principal.
“As a result of the investigation, multiple remedial measures were taken, which we cannot detail because of personnel privacy requirements,” SBUSD said in a recent statement.
According to the school district, the incident occurred in Dupont’s office while he was addressing students who had been caught using the n-word at school. He allegedly used the unabbreviated slur in an attempt to show the students the gravity of its usage. Dupont issued a statement to parents following his leave of absence, in which he expressed his apologies for the incident.
“My response to a recent student verbal incident was problematic,” Dupont said in his statement. “Due to that response, I was placed on administrative leave while the incident was under review. While on leave, I had the opportunity to reflect and engage in professional learning to be more thoughtful and make needed adjustments. I have since returned to work and am striving to put into action the important lessons I have learned.”
This incident with Principal Dupont is just one of 16 other racial incidents reported in our district since September. It also comes shortly after a series of racial attacks that occurred throughout our school district last February, which targeted Black students and staff. In March, the school district reported a total of 12 racial incidents, which occurred across seven schools.
In response to these incidents and concerns voiced by community members, the school district voted to put new measures in place to prevent racially motivated harassment in the future. This included anti-bias training for staff, town halls hosted by the district, the development of an anti-racism task force, and a district-wide racial climate assessment that is still in the works.
However, some are questioning the effectiveness of these measures, since they failed to prevent the incident with Principal Dupont from happening.
“We are disappointed that SBJH was not transparent about this anti-Black harm or the environment that allowed this to happen, especially after all the promises they made after the violent assaults against several Black students in February,” said Simone Ruskamp, co-founder of Healing Justice Santa Barbara, an organization that works to uplift Black voices within our community. “Further, the district has consistently ignored the urgent calls of Black parents and families. They have yet to publish the equity survey (that was promised in February) and Black students continue to suffer.”
There has also been disagreement with the district’s direct response to the situation with Principal Dupont.
“I don’t think the district addressed the situation correctly,” said SM Black Student Union President Desia Gentry. “Someone who is in that place of power and dealing with kids who are impressionable, especially when you should know better, should not still be the principal of a school.”
The next SBUSD school board meeting is scheduled to be held on December 12th. It will be the first school board meeting since the SBJH incident was publicized, and may be an opportunity for members of the district and the community to make additional comments on the situation. Until then, students are encouraged to report any further incidents they witness on the Safe2Speakup app.