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ACLU Files Complaint Against Fresno Unified School District For Racism Gone 'Unchecked'

Valley Public Radio
Bullard High School

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed a discrimination complaint against the Fresno Unified School District Thursday on behalf of two black Bullard High School students, claiming the school failed to protect students from racial abuse. 


There’s been a pattern of racism and anti-blackness throughout the district, ACLU staff attorney Abre’ Conner said. Most recently, a white cheerleader at Bullard High posted a video of herself wearing blackface and saying the n-word on Snapchat in May.


Conner said the student did not suffer any repercussions and wasn’t kicked off the cheerleading team. But, Conner said, one of her clients was removed from the team about two days after she filed a complaint that said she was being harassed and bullied by a white student. 


The school district has dismissed allegations of abuse from black students, Conner added.


“In 2019 we would expect that school districts would be protecting students from bullies and racists, not actually adding to the problem,” she said.


The Fresno Unified School District declined to comment and said it needs more time to review the complaint. 


Conner said her clients have witnessed students who aren’t black repeatedly use the n-word on campus. The lack of concern from the district “clearly perpetuates” an environment that allows white students to feel comfortable saying racial slurs, she said.


Conner said her clients no longer feel welcome at Bullard High School. One has already transferred to another school and the other has plans to leave. 


In June, the ACLU sent a letter to the FUSD board president and trustees that said the ACLU, parents, and people in the community continually had to intervene on behalf of black students and parents for “racist behavior that remains unchecked.”


The district hadn’t sent an “adequate” response to the ACLU or community members, Conner said. However, now that the complaint has been filed the district is obligated by law to respond, she said.


“Now is the time for them to step up and actually be the administrators who are going to create that safe and welcoming environment for all students including black students,” Conner said. 


The complaint lists a number of changes the district can make, like creating a black student task force and funding programs and resources for black students.

Monica Velez was a reporter at Valley Public Radio. She started out as a print reporter covering health issues in Merced County at the Merced Sun-Star.