ACLU alleges racism at school district

EUREKA, Calif. (AP) -- A civil liberties group has accused a Northern California school district of pervasive racism and of condoning weekly traditions in which female students are groped.

The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court against Eureka City Schools by the American Civil Liberties Union, The Times-Standard of Eureka reported (

According to the lawsuit, school officials have ignored complaints of racial taunting and bullying and disproportionately disciplined minority students. It also alleges district staff have witnessed, but done nothing about the groping traditions at one district middle school in which students -- both male and female -- slap others students' buttocks and breasts.

"It's an ongoing part of the student culture," said Michael Harris, a senior attorney for the National Center for Youth Law, which brought the suit in conjunction with the ACLU on behalf of four teenage students who are black and Native American.

The students are not named in the lawsuit, which seeks monetary damages and administrative changes.

In a statement, the district said it does not tolerate harassment or discrimination, but it isn't aware of evidence to support the lawsuit's allegations. It is, however, investigating them.

"As a district, we take the allegations seriously, and we are actively investigating the charges to determine the facts," the district said. "The well-being of our students continues to be a top priority for Eureka City Schools."

A call to the superintendent's office on Thursday for additional comment was not immediately returned.

According to the lawsuit, black students in the district are regularly subject to racial slurs from white students, and the district's curriculum includes materials that use racial epithets. Teachers do no explain their historical context.

The students in the suit have complained repeatedly to district staff, but have been ignored or had their complaints addressed inadequately, according to the suit.

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