Home > Local > Cochrane Firm Sues School District over Racial Abuse

Cochrane Firm Sues School District over Racial Abuse

By: Manny Otiko, IVN

Upland, CA — A group of parents who have complained about racial abuse at local schools has gone public about their grievances. The parents held a press conference on Monday where they described their experiences.  

News broke of racial abuse of African-American students at Upland schools last week. According to reports, African-American students received cards with racial abuse and were called derogatory terms such as “slave” and “monkey.” White students also gave some Black students a “golden n-word” card. Even worse, this abuse was directed at them during Black History Month. The incidents happened at Pepper Tree Elementary.    

However, according to the press conference, this has been an ongoing issue in Upland schools. Several parents said they have been dealing with this for several years. School authorities promised to take action but ended up doing nothing.

Chris Newman, a parent who has several children in the school district, said his family has been dealing with this problem for several years. He said he grew up in Claremont and the situation has gotten much worse in recent years. 

“It wasn’t this way when I was growing up,” he said. 

He also accused the district of trying to bury the problem. 

“They recently released a timeline that’s inaccurate and misleading in order to just protect themselves and to cover themselves, and the only reason there’s any response from the district and the school is because you all [the media] is here,” said Newman.  

Marlene Reynoso, whose daughter was affected by the bullying, said comments made by former President Donald Trump had affected children’s attitudes to race.  

“The former administration made it all too easy for people to make these kinds of comments,” she said. 

In a letter, Pepper Tree Elementary Principal Becki Modereger said all allegations of racist bullying would be investigated and action would be taken against the responsible students.    

James Bryant, of the Cochrane firm, is an attorney working on the case, He said it was shocking that these kinds of incidents were happening in today’s society. He added that he had been the victim of racial abuse while in school, and he knows how painful it can be.   

Bryant accused the district of failing to provide a safe environment for African-American students.   

“They (African-American students) are going to need a lot of therapy,” he said.

During the press conference, he also said he plans to file a civil rights suit on behalf of the Douglas family against the school district and refer the case to California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the Department of Justice. 

Bryant blamed the Upland School Board and school administrators for a lack of action on the issue.  

“If the board members can’t fix the problem, they need to be removed,” he said.  

Bryant also restated that he felt that some school administrators need to be terminated.  

Under the last national administration,, we have seen how hate speech and racial bullying has become the new normal. All across the country, racial bullying has taken the lives of several young African American children.

Last year, Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor died by suicide in November.  Her mother alleged that the 10-year-old Black and autistic student at Foxboro Elementary in Farmington, Utah, had been bullied because of her race and disability.

In 2018, a 10-year-old Kentucky boy allegedly died by suicide after being constantly bullied over his colostomy bag.  Seven Bridges, who was Black, was allegedly choked and called a racial slur while riding the school bus. 

Recently a group of Black parents were outraged at their children’s preschool administrators because they dressed students up and painted them in Blackface. 

The issue also spilled into discussion at a special Upland City Council Meeting on Monday night. During the public comment section, several people came forward to discuss their experiences with racial problems in Upland. Several commentators were clergy who were members of the Upland Interfaith Council, including Inland Valley News Publisher Emeritus Tommy Morrow.    

Morrow said it’s important that all members of the community take a stand against hate. 

“It’s going to take all of us working together, in the same direction,” he said.   

Racial problems in Upland were not just restricted to the schools. Several commentators said they had received anti-Semitic fliers at their homes a few months ago. 

However, Police Chief Marcelo Blanco said distributing anti-Semitic fliers is not a crime because those actions are protected by the First Amendment. He said the only thing people can do is report hate speech, so it’s recorded in an FBI database.  

The City Council voted to direct the city manager to write a resolution condemning hate speech. The action was approved unanimously. 

The Inland Valley News coverage of local news in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.

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