Twitter thread sparks controversy about racism at Los Altos


Cedric Chan

On Monday, June 1, a Los Altos graduate posted a Twitter thread allegedly showing current and former Los Altos students demonstrating what some have called a racist culture at school.

Note: Some sources have been given pseudonyms to preserve their anonymity. All pseudonyms are marked with an asterisk (*) at their first mention and in image captions.

On Monday, June 1, a Los Altos High School graduate posted a Twitter thread showing current and former LAHS students demonstrating what some have called a racist culture at school. The thread challenged previous beliefs about racial equality at LAHS, prompting a handful of students to begin posting their own screenshots and denouncing students that they have called racist. However, at least one of those students has claimed that she did not post what was attributed to her.

This comes as similar allegations have arisen in Saint Francis High School and Archbishop Mitty High School, two local private schools. 


“My racist, ultra-rich, suburban high school is FINALLY being outed for being some TRASH,” the Twitter post reads. “F*ck LAHS f*ck all of the racist *ss white people and their Latino henchmen.” 

Ninja’s* original Twitter post features four photos of former LAHS students demonstrating what some have called a racist culture at LAHS.

The post had 257 retweets and 384 likes as of Friday, June 12. 

The original poster of the Twitter thread — a graduate of the Class of 2018 — requested to remain anonymous in an interview with The Talon, citing violent threats that she received after posting the photos. For the purposes of this story, she will be referred to as Ninja*, from her Twitter handle @NinjaTheSy.

“Considering the current events happening … I felt it was appropriate to speak up about racism within my own hometown,” Ninja said. 

One of the four images included in Ninja’s post is a screenshot of Class of 2019 graduate Johnathan’s* Snapchat story. The story is a photo of a Black student with a caption reading, “When you go to court and become a free slave.” 

Johnathan’s* Snapchat story pictures a Black student with a caption reading “When you go to court and become a free slave.” The mark that covers the student’s face and the white highlighted text were added by other social media users following the original Snapchat story.

The screenshot that Ninja posted is superimposed with text from other social media users condemning Johnathan’s original Snapchat story. 

“I now realize the power of words and that some people may be hurt if you joke [about] sensitive topics,” Johnathan said. “In high school, I never realized these things … and it is something I must clear up. Once again I’m sorry for the people I hurt.”

Johnathan said that he was — and continues to be — good friends with the student that appears to be targeted in the image. 

Johnathan also posted an apology on his Instagram account.

“It’s … very frustrating that [there are people who] know nothing of me and are trying to portray a different picture of who I am as a person,” he wrote in his apology. “As a young Latino, I have myself experienced racism with teachers, cops and other students. … But with this being said, I want to tell everybody that you can’t grow without changing, and for me, this is a huge step in growing up.”

Another image featured in the thread shows a screenshot of an Instagram post by Class of 2019 graduate Anon*. In the post, Anon is taking a picture of himself wearing the Confederate flag, which is often perceived as a hate symbol used by white supremacists against Black people. 

Anon’s* Instagram post features an image of himself wearing a Confederate flag.

On Tuesday, June 2, Anon posted a statement on his Instagram account.

“I am writing this post as an apology and acknowledgement of my past ignorance and mistakes,” the post read.

Anon, who is Latino, said that he posted the photo “in an ironic way.” 

“I say this not to excuse myself but to communicate that what the flag represents could not be further from what it is in my heart,” he said. “As a grown and more matured version of myself, I will take this as a valuable lesson and will continue to stand with my community of Black and brown brothers and sisters as we fight the system of injustices in this country.” 

A third image included in Ninja’s Tweet is a screenshot of an Instagram post where a group of students  pose for a photo after a spirit rally. A comment, presumably from the same post, is edited to be shown directly under the photo.

“White ppl + the one n*gger,” the comments reads. Many have attributed the comment to Class of 2019 graduate Abby*, although she denies writing the words.

The comment left on an Instagram post reads “white ppl  + the one n*gger.” The photo features what appear to be all white students with the exception of one Black student — Makeda Yezalaleul — in the back of the photo.

“The picture is an edit that was used by a classmate who strongly disliked me to try to keep me from graduating,” she said. “Those words were never spoken or typed by me, nor would I ever say them.”

Class of 2019 graduate Makeda Yezalaleul, who is pictured in the back of the photo, was the target of those comments. She did not see them until her senior year, two years after they were posted. 

Makeda said that after one of her friends brought attention to the comment on Instagram, Abby contacted her and said that her account had been hacked. The comments were deleted shortly thereafter. 

“I never responded when she reached out because it was never my intention for her to be ‘exposed’ and for that screenshot to get around like it did,” Makeda said. “Quite frankly, I didn’t want to hear what she had to say about the matter since I was hurt by the comments.”

Abby claimed that she too was harmed by the thread. 

“I almost didn’t graduate because of it,” Abby said. “I was a victim of the thread.” 

However, LAHS administration said it was unaware of Abby’s comment prior to Ninja’s Twitter thread. 

The last image on the original Twitter thread is a screenshot of Class of 2019 graduate Ryan’s* Instagram story. 

Ryan’s* Instagram story shows what appears to be footage of looters beating up a store owner. A caption that appears to be written by Ryan reads, “Whites are the ones who are being hunted now. Don’t get fooled by this BLM bullsh*t.” The other text and the purple arrow are superimposed by students condemning his post.

Ryan’s story features footage that purportedly shows looters beating a store owner during a Black Lives Matter demonstration. 

“Whites are the ones who are being hunted now,” Ryan’s original story reads. “Don’t get fooled by this BLM bullsh*t.” 

After the tweet was published, Ryan posted an implied threat on his Snapchat story to the people that were condemning his words. 

Ryan’s* Snapchat story features a photo of an assault rifle. The caption partially reads, “If you’re gonna threaten my life for standing up for business owners and for being anti-violence, come say it to my face.”

“If you’re gonna threaten my life for standing up for business owners and for being anti-violence, come say it to my face,” he wrote on his story, over what appears to be a photo of an assault rifle. “Don’t f*cking hide behind your screen p*ssy *ss keyboard warriors. Get the balls to say it in person and see what happens.”

Ninja said that she and three of her friends reported Ryan to the police.

Ryan and his family declined to comment. The Los Altos Police Department was unable to comment on their investigation as it is currently active.

Ninja acknowledged the effects of her Twitter post on the implicated students. 

“Yeah it’s shameful and embarrassing, but I just want people like that to admit it to themselves because that’s true accountability,” Ninja said. “It’s everyone’s personal and public responsibility to [be open to] educating themselves on why what they did was harmful.” 

However, she felt that the benefits of posting the thread outweighed the negative effects.

“In the responses to my thread, I also got people that were graduates all the way back from 2014–2016 speaking up about their experiences with racism,” she said. “[It evidently is prevalent] but somehow under-monitored and makes these kids afraid to speak up.” 


Partially in reaction to Ninja’s Twitter thread, some LAHS students took to Instagram to share screenshots of text messages with other students whom they called “racist” and “disgusting.” Some of those students have said that their words were misinterpreted.

“I propose they didn’t have to protest for him,” reads one such screenshot of an Instagram direct message attributed to rising senior Cole*. The comment was in reference to the recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. 

Cole said that, following the circulation of his text, he was accosted — and in some cases violently threatened — online by several people who follow his social media. 

“[There was] a lot of missing context,” Cole said. “I had brought up a couple of points mentioning that I support all the protesters, except for the ones who have become violent and have hurt people. I didn’t think she was going to misinterpret my words and try to use them against me. I was frustrated knowing that the way it was posted isn’t the way I meant it.”

Cole was in disagreement with the student who posted the screenshot of his message, who believed that violent protests were a valid way to bring about change.

“[Cole] had said violence is not the way to get justice,” the student who posted the screenshot of Cole’s text said. “I had asked what he proposes since peaceful protests have clearly not been successful, and that was his immediate response.”

An Instagram story which, among other screenshots, features a direct message attributed to Cole* that reads “I propose they didn’t have to protest for him.”

However, in a follow-up interview with The Talon, the poster claimed that Cole’s words were not taken out of context.

“He claims that I didn’t show the whole conversation,” the poster said. “He made a public statement on his account saying that what I shared doesn’t show the whole story, and that he supports the BLM movement and protests. He did this to look good on social media.”


While the school administration has no jurisdiction over the four LAHS alumni implicated in the original Twitter thread, it does have limited authority in cases where current students direct discriminatory language at other students. 

“Students have the right to say things. They can’t make threats, but their right of expression is real, especially off campus,” Assistant Principal Galen Rosenberg said. “[It’s true] that students saying and doing things off campus that are obviously racist, sexist or homophobic creates a hostile environment. But as a matter of policy, or Ed. Code or legal questions, it’s a complicated [argument].” 

On Friday, June 5, the MVLA Board released a statement condemning racism while applauding student efforts at pushing for change.

“MVLA stands in support of those who have been denigrated and dehumanized based on the color of their skin, gender preference, religion or ethnic history,” Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer said in an interview with The Talon. “Our students of color need to know that we are with them, that we believe their lives and their experiences matter, and that, as a community, we will continue to fight for systemic change.”


Some students were not surprised by the photos on social media, attributing them to what they called a racist culture at LAHS.

“As a person of color, I still do not feel super welcome,” rising junior Kenia Lopez said. “Being very aware of the stereotypes that follow my community, like us supposedly being uneducated and lazy, my friends and I try breaking them. If we are working in groups with our peers, we may make valid points, but our peers doubt them until someone with the stereotype that they’re smart, like [an Asian or white student], backs up our points.” 

“In my math class, one of my Asian classmates asked me for help on a problem,” Class of 2020 graduate Alicia Baldwin said. “I pretty much reiterated what was on the board and in my notes. After my explanation, my partner told me he’d rather ask someone else. His friend proceeded to tell him exactly what I told him.”

Kenia and Alicia said that they don’t believe instances like these are the result of conscious racism — rather, they stem from ingrained racial stereotypes and ignorance. 

“A lot of the time, my experiences aren’t necessarily overt racism, it’s more of the ‘casual’ comments that people don’t really [call out],” Alicia said. “Ignorance like that is hard to combat because it’s so ingrained in society that people don’t even notice it. It’s normalized.”

Reflecting on her experiences as well, Makeda believes that prejudice is normalized at LAHS. 

“I wouldn’t say LAHS as a whole is racist, but it’s definitely prejudiced,” Makeda said. “I think since students often only hang out in their secluded groups, it’s not too common for friends to call each other out on their racist behavior.” 

Some students, however, have experienced overt racism at school, including instances of non-Black classmates saying the N-word on campus.

“Many students who were not African American use the N-word very casually,” BSU president and rising senior Sierra Desrosiers said. “They’ve often done it in front of me without considering how I’d feel as an Afro-Latina. … Most students get away with it because their friends think the same way, or they play it off as a joke.”


Many students on the Twitter thread alleged that the school’s punishments are discriminatory, including involuntary transfers to the district’s continuation school, Alta Vista High School. 

Class of 2020 graduate Divya Jakatdar claimed that many of her white and Asian classmates with poor attendance records — what some LAHS students commonly perceive as a reason for involuntary transfers to AVHS— are “let off with warnings and adjusted schedules.” Meanwhile, those actually transferred “seem to be Hispanic or Black.”

While some students view AVHS as a place for substandard students, Rosenberg said that there are also other considerations at play.

“For a long time, [AVHS was] where you went if your academic or social behavior broke enough rules — it was like punishment,” Rosenberg said. “But it’s also trying to be an alternative school for kids who genuinely don’t like it [at LAHS]. It’s smaller. It’s a different kind of set of academic expectations.”

In the 2019–20 academic year, 72.9 percent of students enrolled at AVHS were “Hispanic or Latino” in comparison to 14.1 percent white students, while In the same year, 65.9 percent of students enrolled at AVHS were “socioeconomically disadvantaged.” 

LAHS was 26.9 percent “Hispanic or Latino” and 36.4 percent white in the 2019–20 academic year. 

0.8 percent of LAHS and 1.2 percent of AVHS was Black in the same year. 

Rosenberg said, however, that the inequities are better than they have been in the past, and fewer people are being sent. He added that part of the issue also lies in the inextricable marks of racism in all parts of the United States, which can make it more difficult for some minority students to succeed in traditional school settings. 

“It’s deeply rooted in the history of the United States,” Rosenberg said. “It’s true in public education, economics, the criminal justice system and every other aspect of our society. It’s partly a question of, compared to the past, compared to other similar institutions, is it getting better or worse?”

Similar complaints that some students brought up claimed that the school unfairly suspects minorities in drug searches, graffiti and other student misconduct.

“As a Mexican, I constantly feel like we are always [the first ones] the school blames,” Kenia said. “This year, when the graffiti started happening, the school only pulled out people of color to question, continuing to follow the exact stereotypes they tell us constantly to break.”

Assistant Principal Suzanne Woolfolk addressed the graffiti. 

“Staff had seen photos sent out of the bathroom of graffiti, which the student may not have realized,” she said. “A teacher noted the same artwork in one particular student’s journal on the same day. That was reasonable, from an administrative perspective, to question the student and ask to see the journals.”

The student later admitted that he and his friends were responsible for the bathroom graffiti. Woolfolk also addressed the drug searches. 

She said that of the four searches she did this year, three were white males and one was a Latinx student. 

“When I search a student, it is because I am worried about [their] safety,” she said. “Education code allows administrators to search due to probable cause. Students typically come to our attention because a staff [member] is concerned that they are under the influence based on suspicious behavior. I searched the [Latinx] student as they were not able to pull items out for me independently. The student had admitted to being under the influence and medical assistance was en route.”


“It’s a social responsibility for these kids to figure out why they have privileged or biased views,” Ninja said. “Mostly, it’s because they are taught at home to believe certain biases. I feel like school should have them question those biases.”

While LAHS does make an effort to appreciate diversity, Class of 2020 graduate Courtney Custodio believes much more can be done.  

“We can go beyond just performative acts such as Diversity Week and actually present facts, information, guides and resources on how to better ourselves for the community,” she said. “The culture of this school truly fuels harmful stereotypes and shows how people of privilege contribute to a destructive mindset.”

Rising senior Mwinso Denkabe, a BSU member, expressed a similar opinion. 

“I think the school administration will have a difficult time trying to cut out racism from the school completely, but they should bring up the topic more to make people aware,” Mwinso said. “We hear about several other issues from the school and they should include racial problems on that list.”

Raising awareness isn’t just a job for the school administration, though. Makeda urges students to take the issue into their own hands by stopping racist behavior when they see it in daily life.

“I think everyone in the LAHS community must begin holding others accountable,” Makeda said. “Whether it be your close friend, classmate or teacher, students should speak up for what’s right. It shouldn’t take the presence of a Black person or non-Black person of color to persuade someone to call out racist behavior.”

Note: The Talon does not condone any racist actions and words and stands in solidarity with the Black community. All final decisions regarding censored names, faces and photos were made by The Talon’s Editorial Board. 

Sunday, June 14: This story has been updated to include more perspectives and clarification about contacted sources.

Monday, June 22: This story’s headline has been updated. 

Saturday, June 27: This story has been updated to include more statistics regarding demographics as well as more perspectives from the Black community at LAHS.