Jillian Domenech, a Black alumna of Fairfax County’s Oakton High School, is the new head coach of her alma mater’s cheerleading team. According to the Atlanta Black Star, toward the end of March, she opened an unexpected email from an anonymous sender that started nice but quickly became a message about what she calls a “sensitive topic.” The message welcomed her to the city and acknowledged her being a former student at the school but quickly made race the focus.
The unknown person claimed they were speaking for other parents and some students who were uncomfortable with “another colored individual coaching cheerleading,” reported the Atlanta Black Star. Although the most recent coaches were Black women, the note mentioned the cheer team had a history of mostly white coaches as if that was a better choice for the team. In addition, the letter mentioned the reaction to the prior coach, Faith Dabrio, who worked at the school for as little as two months last fall.
“Many of the girls were shocked to see another coach last season with such dark and strong features,” the message stated. It’s worth noting that Dabrio left her position for a completely different reason. She didn’t feel a partnership with the administration which led to her feeling unsupported.
On May 8, Oakton High School principal Jamie Lane issued a statement condemning the email, making it clear that they do not support racial discrimination. “Oakton High School stands united against all forms of hate, racism, and discrimination. The cheer team parents and student-athletes stand 100% with this sentiment,” it read.
The Fairfax County NAACP chapter’s education chair Sujatha Hampton said when she read the letter she felt as if she was taken through a time warp since it “sounded like it was right out of the 1950s from the Massive Resistance.” She and the chapter were concerned about the safety of the students since the sender is still free to roam the streets. “It made it feel like there was a fundamental culture that was unsafe for not just Black children, but all children there,” Hampton said.
To ensure the safety of Domenech and the students, a third party was hired for a further investigation in hopes of tracking down the person behind the email.