Friday, September 17, 2021

Kerfuffles over bullying, discrimination in 3 states


Schools have been particularly preoccupied with complaints of bullying and discrimination in this week after Thanksgiving.

High school students in Seminole County, Florida, received more than 8 million racist emails Saturday, featuring “disgusting” messages, school district officials said, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

A report in The Los Angeles Times describes a lawsuit filed on behalf of California students, parents, and several community organizations, charging the state with a failure to provide a free and equal education to all students during the pandemic. If found at fault, the state would have violated the state Constitution and discriminated against Black, Latino, and low-income families, who, the suit claims, have been left behind during months of distance learning without access to digital tools or needed academic and social-emotional supports.

And a lawsuit filed against the Greenville County School District in South Carolina alleges the district did nothing to stop years of bullying against an openly gay male student. The lawsuit claims he was bullied, harassed, and assaulted from 2018 to 2020 at Greenville Middle Academy, Fits News reports.

Email bullying in Florida

Email messages, apparently originating from a bot of some sort, were repeatedly sent to students starting on Saturday. School officials were able to stop the attack by Saturday night, but that didn’t stop many students and their parents from complaining.

Many of the messages were racist in nature, and the news report claimed that emails sent to students at Hagerty High School and Crooms Academy in the first batches contained a link to a video that showed a beheading.

“When will my 10th grader stop getting these disgusting emails??” one mother wrote on the school district’s Facebook page. “She’s been getting them since Saturday and they keep coming in and I keep telling her to delete them. They are coming at such a rate that she’s losing important emails from her teachers in the midst of them.”

“Our Information Services Department and local law enforcement has been alerted and are working diligently to remedy the situation,” the school district said in one of several messages sent to parents. “In the meantime, please let your students know that if they have received any of these emails to DELETE THEM IMMEDIATELY!”

Seminole County Public Schools serves about 67,000 students and is the 12th largest school district in Florida.

Digital divide in remote learning in California

When schools closed down and went to a remote learning model, many students who don’t own computers or have access to high-speed broadband were left behind. This appears to be the case in California, where Black, Brown, and low-income students are more adversely affected than their peers.

“The State’s abdication of responsibility and insufficient response to the challenges of remote learning have denied Plaintiffs the basic educational equality guaranteed to them by the California Constitution,” the Times quoted the complaint as saying. “Because the State’s pandemic response compels families to use their homes as classrooms, the State’s constitutional obligations expand into the home.”

Plaintiffs are asking that all students be given appropriate access to computing devices and technology, as well as “effective remote instruction that is substantially equivalent to in-person instruction.” They’re also demanding schools provide academic and mental health supports for students and a plan for a return to in-person instruction.

In a statement, Supt Tony Thurmond said: “There is no question that this pandemic has disproportionately impacted those who have been made vulnerable by historic and systemic inequities. That is why, from day one of this public health crisis, I have charged my team to maintain an ongoing and urgent focus on addressing the numerous access and opportunity gaps that impact student learning.”

Gay harassment in South Carolina

When an unidentified male student, who is openly gay, called an overweight African American boy “lazy,” the teacher in the middle school class accused him of being racist, but first, the African American boy punched his gay classmate in front of everyone.

The teacher then isolated the boy for several months, according to claims made in a lawsuit his family has filed against the Greenville County School District. He was required to sit alone while all the other students in the class were “seated together in working groups,” according to the complaint.

The boy’s parents called the school to complain several times about the isolation, but to no avail. The boy was later called a “faggot” in another class, where teachers dealt with the situation appropriately, according to the lawsuit. But the bullying continued, which led school administrators to address the situation.

They changed their policies “to contend with the ongoing bullying their son was experiencing on nearly a daily basis” and granted him “partial homebound status that would have entitled him to compensation in the form of instructional hours for the days that he missed as a result of the health impact of the bullying.”

But because of the pandemic at the end of the 2019-20 school year, the boy “never received the compensatory instruction and his grades in the final quarter dropped precipitously,” the suit alleges.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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