At a Clovis Unified school board meeting Wednesday, where plans were unveiled to combat race-related bullying, a parent reported that her son was recently called the “N-word” during a soccer game – the same slur that sparked the district’s current focus on racism.
Amber Rose, whose 15-year-old son is a soccer captain for Clovis East High School, said he and the only other black athlete on the field were called the racial slurs during a game last month by a soccer captain for Clovis High after an altercation between the two teams.
“My son did not respond. He was just kind of like, ‘OK I hear you.’ We’ve had conversations about what people might say and things that might happen, as far as race, and what you should do,” Rose said. “I tell him don’t react so that you don’t get penalized. So he didn’t.”
The referee issued a red card to the Clovis High athlete during the game for using the word, and Rose met with district officials to request that he be suspended for three games and be removed as captain.
But Rose said she can only verify that the player was made to sit out two games. She added that last week when the teams played each other again, her son was forced to confront the player — who was still serving as captain — during the coin toss.
“At first he wasn’t sure about shaking his hand, but that’s what you have to do when you’re out there as a captain. So that’s what he did,” she said. “It’s disconcerting that my 15-year-old has to be the bigger person, and he’s not seeing the consequences distributed. It didn’t have to go this far. I just wanted them to remove him from the captaincy so that they understand that’s not something you can do.”
District spokeswoman Kelly Avants declined to comment on the discipline of the student, citing privacy laws, but called the incident “utterly unacceptable” and said the district is revisiting its standards related to the roles of sports team captains.
“In light of this incident we have already started a process to establish a defined expectation of the responsibility inherent in these kinds of leadership positions,” Avants said.
Wednesday’s meeting promised to provide staff training regarding bullying and intolerance; hire more teachers of color and hold parent meetings on such issues after a leaked Snapchat conversation showed students in September using the N-word and referring to black people as slaves.
The district condemned the speech, and has plans to bolster its Intercultural and Diversity Advisory Council in response. While the program has long existed in some capacity, due to budget cuts Clovis Unified stopped having outside agencies assess each high school’s policies. It plans to reinstate that oversight this year.
“We all know when we cut back our budget, we eat beans, right?” said Vicki Montgomery, a longtime Clovis Unified parent. “How can you take out a component that’s there to measure what is going on in our school district? Whatever you cut, you cannot cut out something that you’re using to measure what you’re doing right and wrong. … Look what happened.”
Montgomery said the district’s past lack of attention to the issue has been unfairly “dumped” on Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell, who took on the role last year.
“It’s been a very beneficial process for us and has enabled us to have very frank conversations with many members of our community,” O’Farrell said of the district’s work in recent months. “I do believe it’s a journey. It’s a context that’s evolving and changing. The dialogue needs to continue.”
But parent Shawn Wills said the district continues to tiptoe around the issue, saying Wednesday’s PowerPoint presentation did not deliver. “A lot of the personal aspects of it were not presented. … to me it was more fluff than was needed,” he said.
“Let’s get down and dirty with this and what we’re going to do about it.”