Things That Matter

A Teacher Thought She Was Funny Handing Out Racist Awards To Students But No One Is Smiling Now

Credit: USA TODAY / Youtube

Lizeth Villanueva, a seventh grader at Anthony Aguirre Junior High School in Houston, Texas was part of an award ceremony apparently designed to take students down a notch. According to The Washington Post, several teachers watched on as students were given ridiculous “awards.” One such award was given to Villanueva: “Most likely to become a terrorist.” You read that right. The teacher in question gave 13-year-old Villanueva the insulting certificate before saying that some people might get offended, but she didn’t really care about their feelings. According to Villanueva, her teacher then proceeded to laugh along with at least three other teachers.

Lizeth Villanueva, a 13-year-old Houston honors student, was given a superlative certificate for “most likely to become a terrorist.”

Villenueva has no disciplinary history to speak of and has been an exemplary student, getting solid grades in the honors program for the last two years. Adding insult to injury, it was the day after the Manchester terrorist attack, where 22 people were killed by a suicide bomber. With anti-Latino and anti-immigrant sentiment running high right now, singling out the Salvadorian-American Villanueva must have been a particularly difficult thing — she hasn’t been back to school since.

The disgusting awards didn’t end there: a Black student by the name of Sydney Caesar was given an award for “most likely to blend in with white people.”

The school has said they’ve taken steps to correct this issue, but parents don’t think suspensions are enough. They feel the damage is already done and could happen again to others. Caesar’s mother, Latonya Robinson, told Houston news affiliate Fox26 News, “Everyone doesn’t believe that this is real. But yes, this certificate shows that this is real. This happened. And we have enough bullying as it is by other students, now it’s being done by a teacher.” Both parents want action to be taken. Villanueva thinks the teacher should be fired, and Robinson wants the same, telling Fox26 that a suspension for the rest of the semester isn’t enough punishment.

The principal of the school issued an apology via the school’s Twitter account.

The principal has reportedly taken action against the offending teachers, but wouldn’t release their names, saying it’s a “personnel matter.” However, someone let the teacher’s name slip.

NBC Houston affiliate KPRC 2 reported the teacher’s name is Stacy Lockett. One family has stood up for Lockett:

Credit: KPRC / Click2Houston

This parent said had three of her students went through Lockett’s class with no complaints.

The school district has issued an official statement on the incident:

“The Channelview ISD Administration would like to apologize for the insensitive and offensive fake mock awards that were given to students in a classroom. Channelview ISD would like to assure all students, parents and community members that these award statements and ideals are not representative of the district’s vision, mission and educational goals for our students.

“The teachers involved in this matter have been disciplined according to district policy and the incident is still under investigation.”

According to KPRC, there’s no word yet whether or not the teacher will be returning in the fall. But the students and families negatively effected by Lockett’s award ceremony, might be hoping for a substitute come next year.


[H/T] KHOU

READ: I’m A Latino High School History Teacher And This Is Why I Went To D.C. To Attend Trump’s Inauguration


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A California City Is Being Sued Because Of Evictions Of Black And Latino Residents Considered Discriminatory

Things That Matter

A California City Is Being Sued Because Of Evictions Of Black And Latino Residents Considered Discriminatory

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against the city of Hesperia and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department alleging discrimination against black and Latino renters. The suit, filed earlier this month, takes aim at a 2016 Hesperia rental ordinance that requires landlords to evict tenants who had allegedly committed crimes on or near their property. 

Making matters more troublesome is that the housing law was passed at a time when Hesperia, a Mojave Desert city of just under 100,000 people located 35 miles north of San Bernardino, saw it’s Latino and African-American populations growing. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Latinos living in Hesperia rose 140 percent, and the number of African-Americans by 103 percent, according to Census Bureau data.

The housing law, called the “Crime Free Rental Housing Program” led to the eviction of countless families, including children, for alleged criminal activity that included one tenant or even some non-tenants. This was in addition to the eviction of family members who had reported domestic violence to the police. The housing act even involved allegations from authorities of criminal activity even if the individual wasn’t arrested, charged or convicted. 

According to federal authorities, city councilmembers’ statements in creating the controversial ordinance show that it was designed to reverse “demographic” changes in Hesperia.

The suit, alleges that the housing law was put in place for one primary reason, to drive minorities out of the city of Hesperia. The DOJ is seeking to stop future similarly discriminatory housing laws and for financial compensation for those tenants that were affected by the ordinance. The housing law was put in effect from Jan. 1, 2016 to July 18, 2017.

The DOJ says that the ordinance violated the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. With the city’s sheriff’s department having determination in which tenants would be evicted, there was an instance when an older Latino couple was removed due to their adult son, who did not live with them, being arrested, the suit said. 

When the measure was initially being drafted, Hesperia Mayor Eric Schmidt made comments about the number of renters that were coming into the city from parts of L.A. County that were known for having large minority populations. According to prosecutors, Schmidt allegedly said that groups left L.A. County  “because it’s a cheap place to live and it’s a place to hide,” and that “the people that aggravate us aren’t from here,” they “come from somewhere else with their tainted history.”

Another questionable comment came from city councilmember Russ Blewett who allegedly said that Hesperia needed to “improve our demographic,” and that he wanted “those kind of people” that the ordinance would particularly target to get “the hell out of our town. 

“I want their butt kicked out of this community as fast as I can possibly humanly get it done,” Blewett said, according to the suit.

“The Fair Housing Act prohibits local governments from enacting ordinances intended to push out African-American and Latino renters because of their race and national origin, or from enforcing their ordinances in a discriminatory manner,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in the press release. “The United States Department of Justice will continue zealously to enforce the Fair Housing Act against anyone and any organization or institution that violates the law’s protections against race, national origin, and other forms of unlawful discrimination.”

As of now, the city of Hesperia has denied any and all wrongdoing in regard to the DOJ lawsuit. 

Rachel Molina, a spokeswoman for the City of Hesperia, told the Victorville Daily Press that the information presented in the DOJ lawsuit is “factually incorrect and grossly misleading.”

“First and foremost, I would like to say that Hesperia is a very diverse community,” Molina said. “We love and embrace diversity in Hesperia. At no time did the City’s crime-free ordinance discriminate against residents of any ethnicity. There are crime-free programs across the United States aimed at providing residents with safer communities — in the recent past HUD supported such programs.”

Before the DOJ filed its own lawsuit, the ACLU took legal action two years ago against the city on similar premises of housing discrimination. 

This isn’t the first time the city and it’s sheriff’s department have faced legal action over the ordinance. Back in 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California filed a suit on the claim that the housing law restricted housing and services for those individuals who had criminal records. In retaliation, Hesperia made adjustments to the law to make the program voluntary for landlords. Just last year, the city agreed to settle with the ACLU lawsuit for $485,000 dollars. 

That lawsuit was filed on behalf of Sharon Green, who leads the Victor Valley Family Resource Center, a housing nonprofit organization. Green told the LA Times that the DOJ suit is important in regards to other cities that might be considering similar discriminatory housing laws. 

The DOJ suit will “send a strong message to cities around the country that they cannot discriminate. Our homeless numbers are far too large and there are far too many obstacles to housing already to be dealing with this kind of foolishness.”

READ: Schools In Mexico’s Yucatan Have Made Mayan Language Classes A Requirement And Here’s Why That Matters

An LA School Handed Out A Map To Help Students Learn The Capitals But Many Say It Had A Blatantly Racist Message

Things That Matter

An LA School Handed Out A Map To Help Students Learn The Capitals But Many Say It Had A Blatantly Racist Message

LAIST

Fifth graders at Downey Unified School District in Los Angeles were given a map of the United States with the letters C-A-N-T across the southern border to indicate immigrants “can’t just cross it.” Parents of students at the school were fuming and felt the study guide was racist. 

The letters represented the states California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The acronym is intended to be a mnemonic device but it was the phrase “you can’t just cross the border of the U.S.” accompanying the image that left parents upset. The Southeast Los Angeles city is largely Latinx, so the assignment struck a nerve.

Erick Galindo of LAist looked into how this study guide found its way into a classroom, and things got messy from there.  

The study guide was downloaded by a fifth-grade teacher from a website.

Galindo found that the study guide, 50 States and Capitals, was created by a teacher in San Francisco with information pulled from a YouTube channel by someone named Ms. Alexander. A teacher at Downey Unified school bought the guide from Teachers Pay Teachers, a marketplace where teachers can buy and sell syllabus materials. 

The teacher did not review it before they handed it out to students over Veterans Day weekend. Parents were furious when they saw it and aired their grievances on social media. 

“This kind of stuff needs to f——— stop,” Jose, a parent of a student at the school, told LAist

The district stopped handing out the guide and is now reviewing how educators audit third-party teaching materials. Teachers Pay Teachers has also stopped selling the guide. 

“I was concerned that she had gotten something like that,” Emily said. “I grew up here. I have a kid who goes to school here. It’s scary.” Emily was one of the parents who called the district office, where she said a representative told her they were handling it.

The district is proactively taking steps to address the situation.

According to LAist, the school immediately spoke with parents of students who used the handout and apologized. The district won’t publicly reveal which teachers used it, although they insist there will be consequences for the educator.  

“Obviously, the structural elements of this worksheet did not convey an inclusive environment,” said Ashley Greaney, the district’s public relations coordinator. ” As an inclusive district, we absolutely do not condone any type of content that is not inclusive in nature.” 

The assistant superintendent educator Wayne Shannon said it was nonunique for teachers to be using third-party websites but that every now and then a teacher may make a poor selection. Shannon said teachers must now fully review anything they hand out to children. Some parents wondered if the district was doing enough, and feared the study guide might just end up in different schools. 

“We need to talk about it,” Jose said. “We can’t be quiet about it. This is a big deal. It a perfect example of how this stuff is so normal, or else it wouldn’t be happening in Downey,” Jose explained. 

LAist finds the YouTube series that inspired the “CANT” map.

Galindo was able to track down the school teacher selling the guide, Brian Louie. Louie declined to comment but said the lesson plan was based on online resources. Several YouTube videos had similar mnemonic devices. 

A woman who goes by Ms. Alexander appeared to mirror the handout nearly identically. 

“The very first thing we are going to start with is ‘can’t,'” Ms. Alexander as she writes C-A-N-T on each letter’s accompanying state. “This is the Mexican border, you can’t cross the border without the right paperwork.”

Many parents in the comments of the YouTube wanted to know what the purpose was of having any commentary about the border at all when it was irrelevant to the assignment. Teachers Pay Teachers quickly addressed the issue, although there’s no way to know how far the guide has circulated. 

“We take resource quality and offensive content very seriously,” Kristin Hodgson of Teachers Pay Teacher told LAist. “It’s extremely important to us that Teachers Pay Teachers’ resources make educators and their students feel respected and safe. If anyone becomes aware of TpT content that may be offensive, they can use our community flagging tool to report the resource to us for review.”

The website relies on a peer-review process to flag any inappropriate or incorrect content. The Downey Unified District reported the lesson plan on the website and it was promptly taken down, and the page for the guide is now no longer available. As for the parents, they remain skeptical that YouTube is a good source of information for students. 

“I can’t imagine what’s happening in other schools,” Lisa, a parent of one of the students, said. “How does a YouTube video become homework?”