Sacramento vice principal suffered seizures after racist threats

Local News

Warning: This story includes references to racial slurs and graphic language.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Threats on social media and racist graffiti left on the grounds of West Campus High School targeting the school’s vice principal are now being investigated as a hate crime, Sacramento police confirmed Thursday.

Four days after racist slurs had to be cleaned off parts of her Sacramento high school campus, union representatives for West Campus Vice Principal Elysse Versher, Ph.D., told FOX40 they’re mortified by the other ways racists have targeted her.

“To sending her husband, who happens to be an official with another organization, to his work email address saying, ‘Are you married to this ‘n’ nazi ‘b-word,’” said Richard Owen, executive director of United Professional Educators Sacramento City.

According to Owen, all that was followed up by death threats and the publishing of Versher’s address online, forcing her to leave her own home.

“Those combination of things put her in fear to the point she and her family had to go live a hotel/motel for the next week,” Owen said. “It’s my understanding that the FBI is involved. They’ve gotten the information off the laptops and so forth.”

The Sacramento City Unified School District said it is also helping police with their investigation.

“Racism and racist language are deplorable, and hurtful to our entire community of students and staff, especially when directed at specific individuals,” said Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar in a statement released Wednesday. “Sac City Unified school sites should be safe places for all, and centers of support that provide opportunities for all students to learn, grow, and reach their greatness. Racist language and actions will not be tolerated. Our District will fully investigate the incident at West Campus.” 

Owen thinks this behavior may have been encouraged by some on campus.

“I don’t know this — the investigation will reveal this — but there’s accusations from Dr. Versher that this was enabled by some adults on campus,” Owen said.

FOX40 heard from Versher about the mental cost of trying to be brave and continue working in the face of all this.

“I’m struggling just to be at work. I’m struggling,” Versher said. “I’m at a breaking point.”

Her union representatives said there’s also been a physical cost.

“Staff called 911 … ambulance came and transported her to the hospital,” Owen said. “She has an underlying condition that triggered three seizures, one of which occurred in the ambulance.”

Versher’s anguish has led to a swell of support for her across her community, including from Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

“It’s disgusting … and unacceptable in our community or anything,” Steinberg said. “My heart goes out to Doctor Versher.”

Owen said investigations into racial discrimination in the Sacramento City Unified School District have a way of getting started and then no one hears about them. He also said 30 of his black and brown union members sent a letter to — and then met with — Superintendent Jorge Aguilar about bias experienced on the job, with little coming from that effort.

Sacramento’s NAACP branch released a statement on the incident, saying in part:

The Greater Sacramento NAACP is disheartened by the district’s refusal to address hate violence at West Campus High School, and condemns such behavior by students, staff, faculty and administration. Use of the N-word verbally or in writing, is a racial slur and a hate crime that will not be tolerated. Refusal to investigate these egregious acts and identify the perpetrators, in the very least is a perpetuation of systemic racism that erodes community trust

Betty Williams, president, NAACP Greater Sacramento Branch

The Greater Sacramento NAACP held a press conference Friday morning at West Campus High School. 

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