US Fact check: Kamala Harris was part of the second integrated class in elementary school
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The claim: Sen. Kamala Harris lied about being part of the second class to be integrated at her elementary school
Following a heated Democratic presidentialbetween former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., social media posts and articles surfaced claiming Harris lied about her experience with Berkeley Public Schools.
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"There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me," Harris said during the debate. Shortly after, users on social media questioned her statement.
And with Biden announcing the California senator as, the allegation that Harris lied about her experience has recently gained steam, along with many other false claims about Harris'
"Kamala Harris claimed to be bussed (sic) in the 60's due segregation type issues," reads an Aug. 12 Facebookthat has been shared over 19,000 times. "She was born in 1964, thus 6 years old in 1970."
The user did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
Just after the debate, in June 2019,, a site as questionable for having an extreme right-wing bias and promoting conspiracy theories, was among those stating the claim, as well. It published an article headlined: "SHE LIED: Kamala Harris Says She Was in Second Integrated Class in Berkeley — But Yearbook Pictures Prove She’s Lying."
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USA TODAY has reached out to Gateway Pundit for comment.
But despite the claim beingwithin the past year, posts on social media persist.
Berkeley Public Schools: 'Harris is correct'
Following many requests from the media about Harris' experience at Berkeley's Thousand Oaks Elementary School, the school district issued a statement to clear up the misinformation.
"Senator Harris is correct in describing her experience as the second class to be part of the busing integration program,". "All Berkeley elementary schools were integrated through an innovative two-way busing plan, which was implemented voluntarily by our district beginning in 1968."
The school district added that Harris joined first grade in 1970, two years after the two-way busing plan was implemented voluntarily.
Honored to be included among so many extraordinary women —— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) Yousafazai, , Ruth Asawa, , and Anne Frank — in a mural at my alma mater Thousand Oaks Elementary School.
Confusion started because social media users noted that Berkeley's high school was already integrated, but the high school was integrated by default.
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However, elementary schools "reflected the racial composition of our neighborhoods, which like many neighborhoods across America reflected the history of segregation stemming from policies which restricted the opportunities of non-white residents" Berkeley Public Schools' site states.
Yearbook photos are misleading
Many blog sites and social media users reference Berkeley High School yearbook photos showing Black and white students in the 1960s as proof to support the claim that Harris lied about her experience. This is misleading because it was — and still is — the only public high school in the city, therefore it was integrated by necessity.
Charles Burress, district spokesman,: It "was the only high school, that’s where all the kids in the city would go" adding that the school system has “accepted as fact” that Harris went to Thousand Oaks Elementary School.
According to, the school board voted unanimously to desegregate all 14 of the district's elementary schools on Jan. 15, 1968.
Then-Harris campaign spokesman Ian Sams confirmed to the Associated Press that Harris started school at Thousand Oaks Elementary a year later.
Local news websitealso reported that Harris was bused to school from her family's apartment on Bancroft Way.
Carole Porter, neighbor and friend of Harris,that, "Kamala and I took the bus to Thousand Oaks School in Berkeley together."
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Many news outlets such as, and have reported on Harris' participation in Berkeley's busing program.
Our ruling: False
Harris was part of the second integrated class at Thousand Oaks Elementary School. Harris started attending public school in first grade, in 1970, and the school district's full integration was approved in 1968. We rate this claim as FALSE because it is not supported by our research.
Our fact-check sources:
- Berkeley Public Schools, July 2019,
- Associated Press, June 18, 2019,
- Berkeley Public Schools, Dec. 17, 2018,
- Berkeleyside, Jan. 24, 2019,
- CNN, June 29, 2019,
- New York Times, June 30, 2019,
- Los Angeles Times, June 30, 2019,
- The Atlantic, July 1, 2019,
- PolitiFact, July 2, 2019,
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
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