mid-March, 2000, the mothers of three African American high school
girls came to us for help. The mothers said that their pleas to
Maria Carillo High School officials to protect their daughters from
the racism and sexism at the school had gone unheeded. After considering
a number of options, the women decided to jointly send a letter
to school officials, to local civil rights groups, and to the press.
Following is the mothers' March 23rd letter.
Following the mothers'
letter we print the written response sent to the mothers by the
School Superintendent's office. The reply from the Superintendent's
office illustrates, perhaps better than any discourse, the wall
of indifference encountered by the women in trying to get help.
Mothers' March 23rd Letter
Mr. Tom Crawford,
(Superintendent of Schools)
are three mothers, each with an African American daughter who,
until this week, was attending Maria Carillo High School. We are
writing you with serious concerns about the safety of our daughters
at this school. One of the girls was wrongfully expelled from
the school on Wednesday. Because of long, escalating hostilities,
we are now afraid to have the other two girls go to school. In
fact, for the last two days we have kept the girls at home.
Throughout this school
year, and last year too, the girls have told us about ongoing
and unabated racial hostilities directed against the girls by
other students. As parents, we have had several meetings with
school officials asking for their help in putting a stop to this
constant racial and sexual harassment of the girls. And we have
been very dissatisfied with the school's inability and seeming
unwillingness to enforce their policy of `no tolerance' for this
kind of behavior, behavior that is so dangerous and so obstructive
of the girls' rights to an equal education.
In the last couple
months the situation has escalated alarmingly. There have been
writings on school property that say "(girl's name), the black
one, is a nigger. I'm going to kick her ass." The girls have heard
comments like, "I have black people in my family tree, and they're
hanging from it" and more. The girls are razzed by classmates
whenever they attempt to participate in the Black Student Union.
Some teachers do nothing to stop this harassment. And in one case
the teacher actively blocked the girl's ability to get to the
meeting on time.
flags, clothes bearing slogans such as "the KKK is getting larger,"
and other oppressive symbols are allowed to be worn and displayed
throughout the school, even though the girls have gone to school
officials a number of times to say how upsetting and offensive
these things felt to them. The girls have been variously called
"Ho's", and "Bitches", and "Monkeys", and it has been made clear
to the girls by some students that they (the girls) are not wanted
at the school. When one of the girls attempted to defend her culture
and let the teacher know that a comment just made in class was
upsetting her, the teacher snapped at the girl and told her more
than once to act "civilized". During a talent show, while these
girls were performing, racial and sexual remarks were being made
by a number of students in the audience. Following the performance,
when the girls were in tears over the incident, a school official
told the girls to `leave it alone' and then did nothing to help
In the last two weeks,
these hostilities have broken into physical fighting in at least
two incidents and the kids are beginning to dangerously gang up,
with only the minority kids being held accountable.
Of particular concern
is the continued failure of the school to properly investigate
these matters, the coercive measures the school has pressed on
the girls, and the discriminatory way in which the school has
increasingly laid blame and punishment on our girls while allowing
white offenders to go without being held accountable. These failures
of the school to protect the girls' rights as the school is obligated
to do under Title VI and Title IX of the Federal Civil Rights
Act is fueling the racist and sexist behavior of the students
toward the minority students.
girls, deeply upset and crying, have been kept in the office and
made to write and sign statements under the school's coercion.
Though the girls repeatedly asked to phone their mothers, school
officials told the girls that they couldn't do so until they wrote
the statements. In addition, the school officials repeatedly threatened
the girls with suspension unless they wrote and signed these same
Our daughters are caring,
intelligent, sociable, and talented young girls with a lot of
interest in life and school. They have received many glowing comments
from previous and current teachers who welcomed and enjoyed them
in their classrooms. It's just so wrong that the girls are having
to go to school lately every day being so afraid, and hurt, and
their spirits being crushed. They have a profound right to be
at this school, to be safe, to feel welcomed, protected, and wanted.
And the school has consistently failed to protect their rights.
We are writing you
to ask you immediate help in correcting this serious problem at
Maria Carillo School. You can contact us directly, or you can
contact us through Marie De Santis at the Women's Justice Center
at (707) 575-3150.
Thank you for your
Signed by the three mothers
Superintendent's April 14th Reply
Mr. Tom Crawford
sent me a copy of your letter of March 23, 2000. Therefore,
in accordance with district procedures, enclosed you will
find a copy of the district's Board Policy #1181.2, Complaints
Concerning Schools or School Employees, and the Formal Complaint
If you decide
to complete the form, please return it to my attention at
the address located on the bottom of the form.
Signed by Mel
Solie, Deputy Superintendent