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Big Bear school district sued over racial harassment

July 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Inland Empire middle school student is taking action against her school after she says a teacher harassed her for wearing a Mexican soccer jersey.

"I never expected to be treated so badly because of who I am," said student Coral Aviles.

Aviles says she was harassed by her performing arts teacher while she was a seventh grader at Big Bear Middle School last year.

Aviles, then 12 years old, said she was wearing a Mexico soccer jersey to support Mexico in last year's World Cup. That's when Aviles said her teacher asked if she was Mexican.

"When I responded yes, my teacher then asked me in a loud voice what I was doing in our country, and that because of people like me she had to pay high taxes and high insurance rates," said Aviles. "I felt hurt and humiliated. I burst into tears and left the classroom."

Aviles said she was so upset that she didn't want to return to class. So she went to the custodian and asked if she could spend her class time with him. Aviles says the custodian went to the principal to make sure it was okay, and claimed the principal said yes.

"When I learned that she spent her class period picking up trash when she was supposed to be getting an education, I was outraged," said Aviles' mother Diana.

The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) initiated a lawsuit. It names the Bear Valley Unified School District, its superintendent at the time, the principal of Big Bear Middle School and the performing arts teacher.

"Teachers cannot single out students for racial harassment based on their ethnicity, or their actual or perceived immigration status," said MALDEF attorney Nancy Ramirez.

A spokesperson said that the district hasn't received the lawsuit so it cannot comment on it. They also said they cannot comment on whether any disciplinary action has been taken against the teacher named in the lawsuit due to the fact that it's a personnel matter.

"I just want to get an education and not get harassed because of my race," said Aviles.

Aviles said the teacher has apologized publically to her.

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