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Chabot Elementary evacuated, school canceled due to bomb threat | #schoolsaftey

Chabot Elementary in Rockridge canceled instruction and sent kids home on Tuesday morning after the school received a bomb threat, according to the police and district officials.

The Oakland Police Department learned of the bomb threat just before 7:30 a.m., which had been emailed to the principal at Chabot Elementary School. Police then responded to the school site and evacuated the campus. Because the report came in before the school day had begun, only about 30 students were in the school at the time, said OPD Capt. Lisa Ausmus.

Police officers and dogs from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office were searching the school late Tuesday morning. Once the campus is deemed safe, it will be turned back over to the principal, who will decide whether to resume classes today.

“I will say that the email has a racial undertone in it,” said Ausmus, referring to the bomb threat. “We’re currently investigating that right now. We have asked the FBI and they’re going to come in and assist us with this investigation.”

Ausmus said OPD is also investigating bomb threats at private residences in the city today, but declined to say whether those are related to the threat received by Chabot Elementary.

Oakland police Capt. Lisa Ausmus addresses the media during a press conference outside Chabot Elementary on Aug. 29, 2023. Credit: Ashley McBride

The bomb threat comes in the wake of a wave of social media posts and hateful email messages that appear to have been sparked by a right-wing social media commentator, who disparaged members of the school community for recently organizing a playdate for Black, brown, and Asian and Pacific Islander families at the school.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, OUSD officials said they first became aware of the threatening messages on Monday morning, and contacted OPD. The police department began preparing a report and sent officers to the school on Monday, before classes were out for the day. OUSD also sent support staff to Chabot on Tuesday.

When the school received the threats on Tuesday morning, district officials reported them to OPD, evacuated the students that were on campus to a baseball field next to the school.

Chabot will be open tomorrow with safety and mental health support available for students and families.

“This incident, along with multiple threatening emails, phone calls, and social media posts are being taken seriously by Oakland Unified School District and the Oakland Police Department. The FBI is also now involved in this active investigation,” the OUSD statement said. “The mayor’s office has committed to maintaining a police presence near the school for the remainder of this week. District and city leaders, in partnership with the school administration, will host a community town hall next week.”

Oakland’s District 1 school board Director Sam Davis had confirmed with The Oaklandside on Tuesday morning that Oakland police were called to the campus to check for a bomb and that the FBI was also involved.

Davis bemoaned the vitriolic response on social media to what he said was an attempt by the school to foster racial equity.

“They’re trying to be more welcoming to families of color at the school,” said Davis. “They had a families-of-color playdate at the school recently, a few days ago. Maybe just one parent posted something online about being upset about that, and it led to all of this drama that I’m sure is 99.9% people who don’t live in Oakland or have nothing to do with the school, sending angry email messages.”

Davis said that the playdate “suddenly became a big deal” after the school district received “an inquiry from a conservative news site.” He said the messages being posted online about the playdate have been “pretty hateful and just deeply offensive and racist. Just really awful stuff.”

Tamila, who asked that her last name not be used, is a parent of a fifth-grader at Chabot Elementary and is involved in the parents’ equity and inclusion group that has hosted the play date for families of color for several years. Her son was the only Black student in his kindergarten class five years ago.

She told The Oaklandside on Tuesday that she and other members of the group started receiving hateful emails on Sunday after a flyer about the play date was posted on Reddit. The play date happened on Saturday.

“This is probably one of the most diverse cities in the Bay Area, right? So you would think that it would be okay, it would be safe for us to integrate our students into all of the schools,” she said. “But for us to be receiving these threats and for our kids to feel like they’re targets is a big problem.”

Chabot Elementary, which serves students from kindergarten through fifth grade, enrolled 567 students during the 2022-2023 school year, according to OUSD data. About 45% of the enrolled students last year were white, with Latino, Black, and Asian students comprising 14%, 13%, and 5% respectively. Roughly 18% of the students were of multiple ethnicities. Across all OUSD schools, about 11% of students are white, 20% are Black, 46% are Latino, and about 10% are Asian.

In the last few years, Chabot, along with Sequoia Elementary and Edna Brewer Middle School, introduced an equitable enrollment pilot to prioritize students of color from low-income neighborhoods in Oakland.

The Oaklandside viewed screenshots of an email sent to the racial-equity parent group at Chabot containing racist remarks and threatening to do harm to the group if it continued its activities.

Briana, who asked that her last name not be used, is also a fifth-grade parent at Chabot who has been involved with the equity and inclusion group. She and Tamila want to see authorities and the district take the threat seriously.

“What will make me feel slightly safe is if they do get the people who have sent the emails and put it all over the internet, and hold them accountable,” she said. “And to also have this type of police presence, maybe not to this extent, but around, to deter anyone from even thinking they can come here and do something to kids or to staff.”

Davis said other parents at the school have also asked the city what more it can do to ensure a safe environment for students.

“All the public safety resources are being stretched thin because of drama created on social media. To me, it really connects to social media companies making tremendous amounts of money by everyone being fascinated with them and them not being accountable for the real-life consequences.”

Tamila said she won’t be deterred by the threats and hateful messages and remains committed to seeing her son graduate from Chabot at the end of this year.

“While I made the decision to send my son here, I’m also willing to do the work that goes behind that, which means making sure that these families and these groups understand that they belong here, just like everyone else does,” she said. “We’re not letting up on it. We’re not going anywhere.”

Oakland mayor Sheng Thao said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that her office is in contact with the police department and Oakland Unified School District.

This is a developing story and The Oaklandside will be updating as new information is received.

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