A federal civil rights lawsuit against the Hart district, claiming four students at Valencia High School were the victims of racism, has been tentatively settled out of court. However, parties for both sides have agreed not to divulge the particulars of the settlement that would end the case that accuses the school district, as well as former school Superintendent Bob Lee, Valencia High Principal Paul Priesz and four school board members of failing to curb racism on the campus. “It’s not finalized. It has to be finalized and approved by the court,” said Jaime Castellanos, superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District. Saying the district and the plaintiffs have reached an agreement, Paul Strickland, Hart board president, said “I can’t discuss the specifics because of a confidentiality agreement between all the parties.” The May 2005 suit on behalf of four black students sought $75,000 in damages, $25,000 in penalties against each of the six defendants, and “vindication” for the alleged violations under the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The students claimed they had been subjected to overt racist attitudes, speech and confrontations “from known white supremacists” at Valencia High. They claimed that Hart district administrators “have done little or nothing” to stop it. Adding there was a “conspiracy to hide and cover up the racially hostile environment.” While parties to the suit have agreed not to discuss the case until it receives court approval, a parent not involved with the suit is speaking out. The father of a 17-year-old former Valencia High School student said he has been watching the case closely and believes those involved are seeking change, not a monetary award. Philip Jordan said he and his wife pulled their son out of Valencia High last year because of a highly charged racial atmosphere at the school. He said his son was called “n—-r” every day, and was once jumped while waiting for a bus. Jordan said he chose not to join the suit. “They want black studies. They want Hispanic studies,” Jordan said. “There were black, Hispanic and Caucasian kids who wanted to be part of that black student union. It was a harmless club. It was about black culture. It wasn’t separatist.” Jordan was referring to one of the plaintiffs who had attempted to start a Black Student Union at Valencia High. The suit alleged that the student’s efforts were met with opposition by Principal Paul Priesz who reportedly said that the words “black” and “African-American” were “offensive” and “intimidating” and were intended to “divide” the school. Jordan said he feels the students involved in the suit “were cheated out of their high school education. I don’t think the Hart district could pay these kids enough money. These were very intelligent kids.”
This story can be found in Today’s Signal Newspaper.