Valencia students allege racism in suit

Valencia students allege racism in suit

District accused of not curbing abuse

By Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press
May 20, 2005

LOS ANGELES — Four black students claimed in a civil rights lawsuit Thursday that officials haven’t done enough to quell racist slurs and graffiti by white supremacists at Valencia High School in suburban Santa Clarita.

The lawsuit, which names the William S. Hart Union High School District, its superintendent and the principal of Valencia High School, was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The suit alleges that groups of white students, who are the majority at the high school, consistently intimidate and insult black students by using racial slurs, painting white supremacist messages on bathroom walls and displaying white power stickers on their clothes, cars and notebooks.

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents the students and their families, said in a phone interview that school officials, including the school board, have brushed off parents’ concerns. She said blacks represent about 5 percent of the district’s 20,000 students.

“They have exhibited deliberate indifference through their failure to correct conditions at the school,” she said. “If the principal, the superintendent and the school district won’t protect our clients’ rights, then we have faith the courts will.”

Pat Willett, spokeswoman for the district, didn’t immediately return calls Thursday from The Associated Press.

A December 2004 press release posted on the district’s Web site, however, said that the Board of Education is in the process of developing programs and course material that foster racial tolerance in response to complaints.

The release also said school administrators were surprised to learn there was racial strife at the school in an upper-middle class suburb about 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.

Yetunde Alabi, 17, said she has heard white students call black students names such as “monkey” and make jokes about Africa and Africans. She said she feels unsafe at the school because of her race.

“When I come home at night, sometimes I cry,” she said. “I feel uncomfortable, I feel unsafe. I’m always watching my back, turning around to see if anyone’s following me.”

Caryn Brandon said her 16-year-old son was forced to transfer from Valencia High School because he was being threatened by what she called white supremacist gangs. He also observed students with white power bumper stickers on their cars, including one that read: “I don’t brake for blacks,” the lawsuit said.

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