Valley Voices

Grandmothers call out Clovis Unified to address racism

Through their church, good friends June King, left, and Jeanine Werner are grandmothers who work a lot with black students who attend Clovis High School.
Through their church, good friends June King, left, and Jeanine Werner are grandmothers who work a lot with black students who attend Clovis High School. jwalker@fresnobee.com

We are two grandmothers, a retired nurse and retired educator, one African American, one white. During the past two weeks, we have become aware of an extreme case of racial hatred at Clovis High School.

Since this is not the first case we have witnessed over the past 10 years, we challenge the Clovis Unified School District board and administration to clearly demonstrate to our community their intent to address this issue in their schools.

According to students, who even posted pictures of the racial insults on Facebook, vile slogans of hatred against African Americans were posted on doors and walls of bathrooms at Clovis High.

As noted in to the Bee on May 24, the administration has finally addressed the issue with African American students. However, we believe the district administration needs to act more comprehensively, since once again this kind of racism seems on the rise in the school district.

Our students, who are in such a numerical minority, should not bear the brunt of decision-making about their safety. They are young people who would like to belong and do not like to make waves in the larger community. We do not believe they will feel safe enough to share the daily insults and hurts they often suffer at the hands of staff and students.

We implore those in authority to take steps to address this issue not only with these students, but especially with staff, other students and parents. The district needs to present to our community a comprehensive plan to use incidents such as this as a way to help make sure all students in the Clovis school district are able to learn in a safe, just environment.

We do not need negative actions only, such as monitoring the bathrooms more closely, but positive steps toward helping students know and appreciate those who are different.

We would like to see staff members trained to become good role models and to learn how to share strategies that make it indefensible to the school community to target minority students in cruel ways. This goal for justice and truth to all students should become part of the “Clovis way of life” within the Clovis school community.

We represent a community of friends in a local church. We teach our children to love others, return kindness for insult, do their best in school and respect those in authority, knowing how difficult leadership is in schools. However, we expect the school district, in return, to provide justice and truth to all its students, a prayer that our congregation offers each Sunday.

We implore parents in this community to think about their conversation in front of their children in this heated political environment. How we talk and act about those who are different affects our children’s perspectives and influences their conversation to and about others.

How can we ever fulfill the promises we make to all our children for the opportunity to build a life of grace and character, when they feel threatened and unwanted in school? All students are diminished in such an environment.

June King lives in Clovis and Jeanine Werner lives in Sanger. They attend St. James Anglican Cathedral in Fresno.

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