Rubidoux Resist! Students, Parents/Community Members Attend School Board Meeting to Demand Justice
The Southwest Political Report
By: Irene Sanchez
On Tuesday February 21, 2017, students, parents and community members attended the Jurupa Unified School District Board Meeting to demand justice for racist remarks made by teachers following some students participating in a #daywithoutimmigrants on February 16th. On February 17th students had walked out of Rubidoux High School marching down local streets in Jurupa Valley, CA outraged by not only the remarks of the teachers at Rubidoux High School calling students “lazy” and “drunks”, but also the lack of response from Jurupa Unified School District’s Superintendent, Elliot Duchon as seen in this video.
The school board meeting began at 6pm on February 21, 2017. When we walked up (myself, partner, and four year old son) we saw news crews in the parking lot. When we entered the building there were many Riverside Country Sheriffs (contracted by City of Jurupa Valley). We placed our names into a pile to be on the list for comments from the public. Since we arrived early at 5:30pm, we were unsure how many people would be present, but saw the room quickly fill up by 6pm.
Over the next three hours of comments from the public, students, parents and community members called upon the board to take action and specifically some people demanded that Elliot Duchon be fired. Many people shared their testimonies of being former students in the Jurupa Unified School District and it’s ongoing legacy like many school districts of miseducating Latinx students. One person who spoke was Dr. Alfonso Gonzales representing the Jurupa Unified Latino and Immigrant Alumni Association (J.U.L.I.A.) “I am appalled at the way these teachers treated these students”. He continues, “Let’s not forget the political context here ladies and gentlemen, we are in a country where we have a president who is on a witch hunt for immigrants who is talking about deploying the military who is expanding the deportation regime in this country and our students are scared and we have to recognize that regardless of political opinions, we have to recognize that our students did that out of an act of fear, but also an act of courage”. He also spoke to his own experiences going through JUSD, “There is a history of racism and discrimination in this school district, I may be a professor now, but it wasn’t because of Jurupa Unified School District. When I was a student in …elementary school, I was told I would be in prison before I was 18. I was told here by counselors, I would be nothing and I graduated here with a horrible GPA. You guys tried to suspend me several times and you wanted to expel me the way you’ve expelled many of the Latino students in this district.”
“I urge you to punish these teacher for what they did. I urge you to fire them”.
John Chavez speaking to the JUSD board.
Community members including former JUSD school board member John Chavez, lent his support to students and called on the board to hold the teachers accountable. A worker from Jurupa Unified School District spoke and directed her comments at the Mr. Duchon telling him “You’re supposed to be the big man here, stand up and be one”. She was met with cheers and applause because as a worker, she stated that the district including Mr. Duchon had attempted to silence her from speaking out against unfair treatment in the past. She continued, “These kid are our future, they are the reason we are all here, they are the reason we have jobs. Without them we have nothing”.
Representatives from the ACLU gained the attention of the board when they spoke stating “You can not silence students who engage in activity that is not only protected by the first amendment, but encouraged by the first amendment”. This caught the attention of some school board members, but particularly Elliot Duchon who gave the ACLU representatives his full attention which was a stark contrast to the attention that was given to a Spanish-speaking mother. When she spoke, Elliot Duchon kept interrupting her, asked for the district translator and then said he didn’t understand and continued to interrupt claiming he wanted to hear word for word what she was saying. In video from the board meeting, you can see Mr. Duchon not only interrupting her, but while many of the speakers talking he would text back and forth with one of his district staff members sitting on the side while slumped down in his chair.
A student shared how she works, goes to school and studies and stated she isn’t a drunk like these teachers stereotyped the students to be and promisesd the board,s “We’re going to bother you guys until you fire them”. Another student shared how students are scared and that the district needed to ensure that teachers did not say the things that these teachers said about student. Her mother continued, “I don’t want these teachers to come back to Rubidoux High School, I don’t want them to they are not professional enough. I mean our kids they need attention, they need someone to listen to them, they need, they’re growing up, like everyone else said, they’re our future”.
A senior at Rubidoux High Schools talked about how she worked two jobs, had a 4.0 and was captain of the cheer team “Tell me again how I’m lazy, tell me how I’m drunk, because I know that I’m not. Mr. Duchon I don’t mean to fight with you, but I don’t think it was right to take away our prom, our grad night, our graduation ceremony, it’s on the website sir.” When she spoke of the walkouts and how her younger sister from Mission Middle School was on lockdown and the walkouts and what they inspired in her classmates she said, “I’m proud. My mother she sits here in this room with me right next to me in full support and if there’s anything I’ve learned from my mother, it’s respect and respect should be reciprocated and I don’t think I want to sit in a room where teachers don’t want to respect me.” The student went on to tell a story of how she wanted to apply to New York University and how her counselor discouraged her and even refused to provide her with a letter of support she needed to apply.
Another member of J.U.L.I.A., Sinar Lomeli, a counselor spoke stating that her mother was made to feel less than while her and her siblings attended Jurupa Unified School District Schools and her brother in particular was encouraged to drop out of school. “Because you allow discriminatory practices to belittle young children and parents even the secretaries feel empowered to discriminate against parent and I say that because that was the experience of my mother who is here with me today. Even a secretary felt empowered to put my brother down and tell my mother how awful her children were”. Ms. Lomeli went on to share the counselor’s credo while the school board tried to tell her she was out of time, but she kept talking to read the complete credo and how the counselor involved in the racist remarks was in violation of the credo. She continued how the school board may not have the power to fire the teachers, but they did have the power to fire the superintendent, Mr. Duchon.
As a former student of Rubidoux High School myself, this hit home because I was a student who barely graduated from Rubidoux and then went on to be placed on academic probation and dismissal from community college my first year, a big part of that being the result of being underprepared upon high school graduation. My struggles academically in JUSD inspired me as I shared that evening as a member of J.U.L.I.A. “The whole reason I pursued a Ph.D. is because of my experience here in the Jurupa Unified School District.” I also spoke to the impact of walkouts throughout history in referencing the many points in which they did accomplish change and how the students who participated in them should not be penalized as they were. “There are people who say walkouts don’t accomplish anything, but “Walkouts do accomplish something, from 1968, to prop 187, to 2006, to today, they did…”
As the students commented on their own experiences, I went back to what I had learned throughout my own schooling and why this situation in Rubidoux is of great importance.
“Even today that is continuing to happen that our students aren’t getting the support they need to succeed and have the opportunities. In a school district that is majority Latino students. Rubidoux High School has 90 percent Latino students now and so it is an outrage how they are being treated. It is an outrage that teachers can feel so open with their racism to express your opinions and you need to do something”.
The last update from JUSD on the walkouts was published right before the board meeting and said,
“All of our students were exceptionally well behaved today and we are proud of them. They expressed their feelings and opinions appropriately. Due to the positive behavior our students displayed today, schools will return to their regular schedule tomorrow.
We want to thank all of our students, staff, and community. We especially want to thank our parents who took the time to talk to their children about the importance of being in school.
Now if only students were not talked about as if they were animals that need to be controlled and as if they are the problem and instead Mr. Duchon should focus his efforts on ensuring not only the teachers, counselors and staff are well-behaved, but that he is as well especially since when approached by community he fails to show care and concern for the parents and especially the students that the Jurupa Unified School District serves.
The next board meeting is next Monday March 13, 2017 at 6pm at the Patriot High School Theater located at 4355 Camino Real, Jurupa Valley, CA, 92509.
Featured Image: Students, Parents, and Community Members at JUSD Board Meeting