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Friday, January 3, 2014

California school district subject of troubling allegations of discrimination and abuse

Unknown-2The Eureka County, California school district has a problem, according to a recently filed lawsuit by the ACLU. The lawsuit alleges that the district has intentionally discriminated against minority students by ignoring repeated physical and verbal abuse by teachers and other students. According to this North Coast Journal article, the lawsuit alleges that "a teacher once told students that 'black people get bored easily' and ordered a teenage girl, 'Don't give me your black attitude[.]'" It further reports:

[Native American cultural] history is neither understood nor respected in Loleta or Eureka, according to the complaints. Last spring at Eureka High, Alexis R.'s history teacher asked students in her class to raise their hands if they were Native American, according to the lawsuit against the district. When Alexis R., who is Yurok, raised her hand, the teacher allegedly asked her to explain the 1860 massacre on Indian Island in Humboldt Bay, which was perpetrated on an entirely different tribe, the Wiyot.

 

Another Eureka High teacher allegedly "had her history students 'make up' different Native American tribes and then pretend to fight each other" because, according to her, "this was how Native Americans traditionally resolved conflict between their communities," the lawsuit states.

 

The suit also claims that Eureka City Schools administrators have "routinely" refused to excuse Alexis' absence "to participate in vitally important Yurok cultural activities, including community brush dances, funerals, and salmon fishing."

The superintendent claims that parents have not complained about discrimination prior to this lawsuit, which, of course, is contested by the plaintiffs who apparently have documented many such complaints made to school administrators. He further asserts that parents failed to follow the official complaint process, the details of which are displayed in all classrooms.   

In any case, schools assume some of the responsibilities of parents during the school day. In Vernonia Sch. Dist. v. Acton, the Supreme Court said, "When parents place minor children in private schools for their education, the teachers and administrators of those schools stand in loco parentis over the children entrusted to them. In fact, the tutor or schoolmaster is the very prototype of that status." In this role, administrators' utmost concern must be the students. As such, administrators ought not be justified in dismissing parents' complaints simply because of minor procedural deficiencies; by doing so, administrators ludicrously neglect the duty to protect students for whom they have assumed responsibility. If their role can be shirked so easily, perhaps its time to rethink the deference commonly given to them by courts. 

This is not about demanding more from school districts, its about demanding the bare minimum. 

The article begins:

Brianna sits at her kitchen table, surrounded by manila folders spilling notes she's taken about her struggles with the staff and administrators of Zane Middle School over the treatment of her 13-year-old daughter Jessica.

 

"This is not a black or a white thing," says the lanky, kind-eyed single mom who works full time, coaches her daughter's volleyball team and says she never expected to be a plaintiff in a discrimination lawsuit against her daughter's school district.

 

The notes document a year and a half of merciless bullying — students calling Jessica "nigger," "hooker" and "whore," shoving her head inside a locker, smearing her face with makeup and tripping her in the hallway. Calendars made with Excel spreadsheets and printed on computer paper are filled with notes about emails sent, phone calls made and meetings attended as Brianna tried to get the harassment to stop. Eventually she came to the conclusion that it wasn't going to stop because the school's administrators simply weren't taking the problem seriously.

 

So Brianna started working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which began investigating racism and sexism at Eureka City Schools about a year ago following a call to its complaint hotline from a grandma who was desperate to help her bullied grandson.

 

On Dec. 18, the ACLU, in conjunction with the National Center for Youth Law, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging "years of intentional discrimination" by the Eureka City Schools District, discrimination based on students' race, sex and disability status. In a 51-page complaint submitted to the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, lawyers for the two groups outline "a racially and sexually hostile environment" at the district's schools, which include four elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. The suit alleges that staff and administrators discipline minority students more harshly than white students, make racially ignorant and sexually offensive comments in class, offer curriculum that affronts or ignores cultural history, and fail to prevent widespread racial and sexual bullying.

CRL&P related posts:

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/civil_rights/2014/01/unequal-opportunities.html

14th Amendment, Schools | Permalink

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