Education Equity for All Students, Including Native Americans (Loleta, CA)

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Loleta, California

Five years ago, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and the National Center for Youth Law (NYCL) joined with California Indian Legal Services to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), asking that agency to investigate what the groups argued was ongoing racial and disability discrimination against Native American students by Loleta Union School District employees. Filed on behalf of the Wiyot Tribe of the Table Bluff Rancheria, and with the support of the Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria, the complaint charged that staff at Loleta Elementary School physically assault Native American students, use racial slurs in front of Native American students and routinely suspend or expel Native American students for minor behavioral infractions.

The physical and verbal abuse that Native American students in Loleta are subjected to is a perpetuation of a historical practice of Native American marginalization that dates back nearly 150 years.

Modern day examples listed in the complaint to the OCR of Loleta students having their ears grabbed by the school superintendent who then exclaimed, "See how red it’s getting?" or school district staff referring to Native American students during a school board meeting as "goats" and "sheep," are reminiscent of the reports of pervasive physical abuse at the boarding schools Native Americans were sent to beginning in the late 1870s.

A step in the right direction

Late last year, the Loleta Union Elementary School District entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with U.S. Department of Education. The agreement follows an investigation by the OCR, which found substantial evidence that the district had created a hostile environment for Native American students, disciplined Native students more harshly than other students, and failed to provide legally mandated services for students with disabilities. The extensive agreement requires the district to take specific actions to address historic discrimination and create an environment in which all students can learn. The District must involve and report to the community, as well as report on its progress to the OCR.

Key deadlines the District must meet in 2018

For more information on the actions the District must take, related deadlines, and ways for the community to be involved, download this quick guide.

In Spanish: Esta Hoja Informativa contiene información importante para madres y padres, personas custodias, estudiantes, y miembros de la comunidad acerca del Acuerdo entre Distrito Escolar Loleta Unión y la Oficina para los Derechos Civiles (OCR) del Departamento de Educación. Puede leerlo aquí »

Learn more

Wiyot and Bear River Tribes Call for “True Partnership” To Protect the Civil Rights of Loleta Students (Dec. 12, 2017) 

OCR Investigation and Findings Report (Nov. 22, 2017)

Loleta Elementary School District Voluntary Resolution Agreement (Nov. 20, 2017)

ACLU, National Center for Youth Law, and California Indian Legal Services Charge Racial and Sex Discrimination in Humboldt County Schools (Dec. 18, 2013)

Complaint to OCR regarding disparate treatment and harassment of Native American students (Dec. 18, 2013)

Humboldt County Schools Litigation 

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