A "blatantly racist" outburst targeting Black students and families threatened the safety of everyone within the David Douglas School District community, administrators say.
The incident at Ron Russell Middle School is at least the fifth such occurrence within the metro area since classes returned for the 2020-21 school year — and an indicator that local educators have struggled to keep online learning spaces secure.
School officials say the hate speech occurred during the middle school's Back to School event, which was held online in the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 16.
"An intruder logged on, unmuted himself, and blurted a series of racist slurs targeting our Black community," Superintendent Ken Richardson said in a letter to parents. "This intruder was immediately removed from the meeting, but of course the damage was done."
In a separate letter, Ron Russell Principal Michael Contreras said staff paused for a moment to disavow the attack immediately after it occurred, and then proceeded with the presentation.
"It was shocking and disheartening to say the least," said Contreras. "I am extremely saddened and upset that our families and students had to witness that."
Two guidance counselors were available to speak with any pupils impacted by the incident, he added.
Racial slurs have also been shouted or typed by anonymous users in the North Clackamas School District, Portland Public Schools and in two separate cases at a high school and middle school in Lake Oswego. At least one incident involved actual hacking into a student account, though most involved school events that were accessible by anyone with an invite link.
David Douglas School District serves about 53,000 residents in a 12-square-mile portion of East Portland, and Richardson considers the district to be "perhaps the most diverse in Oregon, and proudly so."
Ron Russell Middle School draws its student body from Earl Boyles, West Powellhurst and parts of the Lincoln Park and Mill Park neighborhoods.
"This was a direct, disturbing and hurtful attack on our Black families. It may not have been physical, but make no mistake, this was yet another example of racial violence inflicted on our Black community members," said Richardson. "To see racist incidents like this finally recede into history, we must all become actively anti-racist."
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