New partnership between Issaquah School District, students, and NAACP after racist poster incident

ISSAQUAH, Wash. – A high school dance proposal went viral for all the wrong reasons.  Now the Issaquah School District, students, and the local chapter of the NAACP say they’re working to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

A student made a racist poster in April before a school dance and that picture was shared on social media by hundreds of people. Issaquah High School senior Engubia Fontama organized a student walkout.

Issaquah High School student makes a racist poster as a school dance proposal in April 2019. The school district denounced her actions.

“Wanted to give students the ability to correct the message about our school,” said Fontama.

Fontama says that one student’s actions don’t match the school district as a whole.  The message from Issaquah School District Superintendent Ron Thiele denounced the poster.

“It did not reflect our values, the work that we’ve been doing and the goals that we have for the district we’re trying to become,” said Thiele.

Since then, the district, along with the student club C.A.R.E. or Consciousness and Racial Empowerment led by Engubia and her brother Chembe, have worked to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“Most of my teachers, almost every single one, we just kind of talked about it. My gov teacher we took the entire class and we just talked about it.  And I know a lot of teachers did that,” said Fontama.

A week after the racist poster, Thiele says the school board retreat spent a half day talking about equity. He says it won’t stop there but with changes to the curriculum.

“What are the materials? Do they have a fair representation of all people, women, men, LGBT community, people of color? Looking for a more realistic portrayal of history and the role various people have played in our history,” said Thiele.

On May 1, the school district will be a member of the Seattle/King County NAACP led by President Sadiqa Sakin and Education Chair Shyan Selah.

“We’re looking to educate and inform and support them in bringing in a more robust training in regard to the students in regard to the faculty in regard to the community,” said Sakin.

Sakin says the NAACP had a three-hour conversation with administrators and it’s just the beginning.

“Assemblies is one thing, class guest speakers, activities of our student lead clubs like our C.A.R.E. club,” said Sakin.

Ultimately, the emphasis is on students.

“Because we can’t be there every single day and every moment, we have to be able to supply them accordingly and know that they can supply that for themselves,” said Fontama.

The goal is to continue the difficult conversations throughout the school district.

“Multiple C.A.R.E. chapters throughout the district in high schools and middle schools,” said Fontama.

The school district continues to work with Cultures Connecting to facilitate a multi-year plan for the future between the NAACP, the school district, and students.