A Pleasant Grove High School student told school officials that an unknown person verbally harassed her for being Muslim in a campus restroom on Dec. 4.
The suspect reportedly wore a mask and threw a bucket of water at her before leaving the scene. School officials said that the victim did not suffer injuries during this incident that occurred after school.
The suspect remains at large and the Elk Grove police are investigating the case.
“When any reports like this are brought to our attention, we take them seriously and investigate them thoroughly,” Elk Grove police spokesperson Jason Jimenez said. “The investigation remains active and ongoing.”
This incident sparked condemnation from Muslim community members as well as local city and school officials. They also expressed their support for the student, identified in the press as 17-year-old Sabah Elias. She told the The Sacramento Bee reported that she was wearing a Muslim Student Association shirt when she was bullied.
Elk Grove School Trustee Bobbie Singh-Allen told the Citizen that she looks forward to discussing the incident at the Elk Grove school board’s Dec. 17 meeting.
“As a member of the Sikh community, I know firsthand about intolerance, racism, and bigotry,” she said. “I hope there is a teachable moment in this ugliness. All students, regardless of faith, gender, race, orientation, and more should feel safe in schools.”
Elias declined to comment for this story.
In a Dec. 5 letter to parents, Pleasant Grove High School Principal Taigan Keplinger addressed the case and said that her staff immediately alerted authorities after the incident was reported.
“Such despicable and detestable acts and/or expressions of hate corrode every educational principal, philosophy, and policy we are charged with upholding,” she wrote.
The principal also wrote that the attacker is believed to be a student.
Keplinger noted that her staff is working to promote respect and student unity on campus.
A community forum was held at Pleasant Grove High two days after the incident. Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly spoke to the students and faculty at the meeting.
“This is a teaching opportunity and we have to look at this incident as an opportunity to educate students who may not be aware of other cultures so that we can be consistent with what we stand for in Elk Grove,” he told the Citizen on Dec. 7.
Elk Grove School Trustee Beth Albiani, who represents the Pleasant Grove High area on the school board, said she was saddened and angered by the incident. She noted that she has a child who attends the school and she complemented the school staff’s response.
“Ms. Elias and her family helped us all by standing up to this behavior and reporting it immediately,” Albiani said. “I appreciate the swift and inclusive steps taken by the staff to address this incident and provide a space for people to gather.”
Albiani and Singh-Allen said they were unable to attend the forum since they were attending a California School Boards Association conference in San Diego.
Elk Grove school district officials said in a Dec. 9 press statement that the Pleasant Grove High staff will perform measures such as boosting security for students engaged in after-school activities, and working with the school’s Student Equity Council and cultural club advisors to promote cross-cultural respect.