ACLU Complaint Alleges Racism in Clovis Unified

The ACLU has filed a complaint to Clovis Unified alleging the school district of creating a “racially hostile climate” for African-American students. (Photo by Ron Sundquist/Clovis Roundup)

The American Civil Liberties Union lodged a complaint against Clovis Unified School District this week, citing the school district has created a “racially hostile climate” for its African-American students.

The complaint, filed on Tuesday, Sept. 1, alleges that a Clovis High junior faced multiple racist incidents since his 8th grade year at Clark Intermediate.

The student’s name was redacted from the complaint due to his status as a minor.

These incidents include the student being patted down abruptly by a teacher at a middle school book fair, and another teacher repeating the N-word while reading “Of Mice and Men” in a 9th grade English class. The latter made the student especially uncomfortable for the fact that he was the only African-American student in class.

A year later, the student’s 10th grade English teacher attempted to read “To Kill A Mockingbird” aloud, which also contains the N-word, before she was stopped by administration. The teacher continued to show another movie with the word’s inclusion, shocking the student.

The ACLU complaint points to these incidents as a contributing factor to the student’s faltering grades, slipping attendance and disdain for going to school.

The complaint also notes the student’s racial trauma exacerbates his existing mental disability, a development that plays a role in a fourth incident on January 29, 2020.

At this time, the student was caught with two others smoking a vape pen in the bathroom. During a meeting with administrators, the student’s father felt his son’s 504 plan – which provides accommodations to students with disabilities – had not fully been implemented.

Yet when the student expressed to teachers his smoking was to cope with racial hostility he faced at school – according to the complaint – teachers “rolled their eyes.” He was then suspended for a week, along with an Asian-American student, while the white student who also participated went without suspension.

“While [redacted] would like to return to CHS upon the resumption of in-person classes,” the complaint states, “he reasonably fears further racially hostile incidents at the hands of his teachers.”

Clovis Unified spokesperson Kelly Avants called the allegations “deeply disturbing.”

“They don’t reflect our focused efforts, especially over the past three years, to build a system that promotes respect of students’ race and culture, trains employees in building culturally proficient classrooms, reinforces a zero tolerance stance on racism, and works to listen to and give voice to our community of color,” said Avants in a statement.

The complaint requests policy changes to make Clovis Unified teachers “culturally competent and sensitive” through training on the experiences of African-American students, racial trauma, and mental health issues.

The complaint also calls for the introduction of a Black student-focused liaison to work directly with Black parents and students throughout the district.

To read full complaint, go here.

Gabriel Camarillo has written for the Clovis Roundup since August 2019 and follows high school athletics, Fresno State football and former Clovis Unified student-athletes. Gabe also writes for The Collegian as a staff sports writer and works at One Putt Broadcasting as a board op for 940 ESPN radio.