A lawsuit filed this week accuses a northern California school district of creating a hostile environment for female and minority students.
The suit, filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union against Eureka City Schools, makes dozens of specific claims on behalf of four teenagers who said they were bullied by other students and subjected to discrimination by teachers.
The civil rights group also asked the U.S. Department of Education to investigate claims of bias against Native American students and physical abuse by a school administrator at nearby Loleta Union School District.
An attorney with the National Center for Youth Law said he spent months investigating both districts, and he described the situation as a “culture of lawlessness” that basically encourages bullying.
”This culture has bred this belief among some students that they can target other students and nothing will happen to them, and they are pretty much right,” said attorney Michael Harris.
The four plaintiffs – 13- and 15-year-old black girls, a 14-year-old black boy and a 16-year-old Native American student – attended five different schools in the district, where they “experienced years of intentional discrimination by district staff based on their race, sex and disability status,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit claims the black students were subjected to racial slurs from their classmates, and court documents show one student made monkey noises, threw food and physically assaulted the 14-year-0ld plaintiff since grade school.
One girl said she and her mother had complained about racial bullying more than 30 times to administrators, but they say nothing was ever done.
Teachers, administrators and staff members also took part in the bullying, according to the suit.
One student said one of her white teachers announced to the class that “black people get bored easily,” and she said a school monitor once told her, “Don’t give me your black attitude.”
The suit also claims the district suspended or disciplined minority students at a higher rate than others, including a suspension for lashing out at racial bullying while the tormenters went unpunished.
The lawsuit claims that teachers in the district present films or books that use racial slurs without discussing their historical context or explaining that they’re offensive.
Native American students were asked to identify their ethnic background in one class by raising their hands, the suit claims, and another teacher asked students to make up different tribes and pretend to fight each other to show “how Native Americans traditionally resolved conflict between their communities.”
Sexual harassment was also systemic in the school district, according to the lawsuit.
District staff members witnessed, condoned or participated in “weekly traditions” of “t*tty-twisting Tuesdays” and “slap-*ss Fridays,” when girls had their nipples, breasts and buttocks grabbed or hit on school grounds.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for the four plaintiffs and administrative remedies, such as a monitoring program.
Eureka City Schools issued a statement Wednesday claiming that officials were not aware of evidence to back the lawsuit’s claims and insisting that the district does not tolerate harassment or discrimination.
Sally Hadden, superintendent and principal for Loleta schools, is accused of grabbing a Native American by the ear and pointing out how red it got, hitting students over the head with a clipboard and kicking students in the buttocks.
Other Loleta employees are accused of referring to Native American students as “goats,” “sheep” and “wild Indians.”
[Image: nhappy Girl Being Bullied In Class via Shutterstock]