CONTENT WARNING: This article contains information regarding attempted suicide. If you are struggling with depression or have thoughts of suicide, there is help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number, 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A Sacramento vice principal who was the target of racist graffiti and violent threats by her own students has decided to resign, claiming she has been a victim of harassment on the job for years.
Brian Heap, the chief communications officer of the Sacramento City Unified School District said West Campus High School Vice Principal Dr. Elysse Versher submitted her resignation effective June 17, following the end of the school year.
In an email to the district, Dr. Verhser claims to have been the victim of racism for years and said the district failed in preventing such incidents. The email obtained by CBS13 can be read below:
"This email communication serves as notification of my intent to not renew my contract for the 2022-2023 school year as Assistant Principal at West Campus High School. Given the physical and emotional anguish that I have suffered as a result of the racial discrimination and harassment endured by me over the years and the District's failure to prevent such conduct by its administration, staff, students, and parents, I know that I cannot safely return to work. Thus, please accept this letter as my official resignation from my employment with Sacramento Unified School District, effective immediately. Please acknowledge receipt of this notice, via email, and provide any additional next steps if applicable.
-Elysee Versher, EdD"
Also sent to the district was a letter detailing alleged past incidents she says brought "trauma, mental anguish, and PTSD" to her and her family. (WARNING: The letter, which can be read in full here, contains graphic and troubling accusations.) Dr. Versher said in her letter that "consistent racial and sexual harassment" on the job led her to attempt suicide and experience multiple stress-related seizures.
The accusations in the letter date back to September 2019 when she claims a parent accused her of earning her job through affirmative action. She claims her tire was slashed and that "there were no systems in place to protect employees from violent community members."
Last November, Dr. Versher returned to her campus parking spot to find racist language written on the wall in front of it.
The derogatory remarks continued on social media from accounts angry about a school dress code. Dr. Verhser said threats were also made online toward her family, including her two young children. She wrote:
"Students came in droves to produce evidence of their peers racially harassing me and posting hateful words and images on the face of my -then- 4-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. My principal told me that despite the fact students were calling me racist names IN CLASS during INSTRUCTION, it's free speech and we could not investigate."
Dr. Verhser said she had multiple stress-induced seizures just days after the November incident.
"The hate crime committed against me could have and should have been prevented. Principal John McMeekin, Instructional Area Superintendent Chad Sweitzer, and Human Resources failed to fully investigate my countless, documented racial and sexual harassment concerns," she wrote in her letter.
The district released a statement Thursday evening acknowledging it received Dr. Versher's letter of resignation and that an investigation into the vice principal's complaints remains active.
"Dr. Versher made complaints of racist acts directed toward her during her employment and the District immediately initiated an investigation into those complaints. That investigation is nearly complete," the district said. "At this point, out of respect to Dr. Versher and the process, the District will not have further comment until the investigator's final report is issued. We expect that will happen soon."
Dr. Versher claims to have a "litany of other documented incidents" involving students, parents and staff that weren't included in her letter but contributed to the overall decline in her mental, physical and emotional health.
The West Campus incident was just one of multiple across Sacramento City Unified campuses that prompted the district to hire its first-ever race and equity liaison to combat racism at schools.
The district said it "will not tolerate racist behaviors and we will continue striving to achieve racial justice."
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