The American Civil Liberties Unions of Northern and Southern California sent a letter to the Greenfield Union School District Superintendent this week after a former employee complained of a racially hostile work environment.
Kei Jackson says before going to the ACLU, she filed multiple complaints with the district about what she calls microaggressions she experienced while teaching English to seventh graders at Ollivier Middle School. There was the time in February last year when she wore a dashiki to school.
“A teacher comes up to me, and she tugs on my dashiki in front of students and she said, ‘What is it, Kwanzaa or something?’ and I said ‘No, it’s Black History Month.’ And she laughed and said, ‘Yeah I know that, I’m just kidding,’” remembers Jackson. “At that point I said, okay. This is clearly a display of cultural insensitivity.”
There was the time students told her a non-Black teacher referred to them as “little slaves.”
Jackson says she was told not to wear a shirt that said “Phenomenally Black,” even though she’d worn a similar shirt that said “Phenomenal Woman” without incident.
Jackson says her contract was not renewed the following year, supposedly for credentialing reasons, but she says that wasn’t a problem before. They hired her knowing she was in the process of getting credentialed.
“As of now I haven’t received an apology,” says Jackson. “I’ve received nothing but justifications and retaliation.”
The ACLU sent a letter to Greenfield Union Superintendent Ramon Hendrix outlining these incidents, and calling on him to denounce harmful, racist actions.
Hendrix said in a statement the district strongly disagrees with how it was characterized in the letter, and is committed to respecting students and staff.
While she didn’t return to Ollivier Middle School as a teacher in the fall of 2019, Jackson says she was barred from volunteering as an on-campus coach with the school’s cheerleading team, which she started with a coworker five years ago.
Jackson says she could pursue further legal action, but right now just wants the district to acknowledge its wrongdoing, and do better. She’s currently a teacher at Kern High School District, which she says has been a much better experience.
Her cheer team at Ollivier, she says, found ways to practice off campus so she could stay involved, and even won a national championship earlier this year.