Civil Rights Attorney Demands High School District Change Discriminatory Policies

The attorney represents students who claim they were unfairly denied admission to Mills High School even though they live within its school zone.

The civil rights attorney representing the interests of students who have made claims of discriminatory enrollment policies at Mills High School in Millbrae delivered a letter to the San Mateo Union High School District last week pushing for the district to make immediate changes to enrollment policies.

In recent months, word spread that several students who signed up to attend Mills - - had been denied admission and were instead sent to Capuchino High School in San Bruno.

Many cried discrimination on the part of the school district, as many of the students who claim they were unfairly denied admission to Mills were Asian, and others speculated it was because the students had good grades, and the district was hoping to boost Capuchino's scores by sending them there, as Capuchino's scores are among the lowest in the district.

It was revealed that the students live with "caregivers" or relatives such as grandparents or aunts or uncles who have homes in Millbrae within Mills' school zone, and do not live with their parents, some of whom live in other cities or even out of the country. The students claim that is not sufficient grounds for denial of admission to the school in the city they live in full-time, and that it is discriminatory against their Asian cultures, in which living with a relative other than one's parents is common.

Civil rights attorney Jenny Huang of Justice First, LLP, last week sent a letter to San Mateo Union High School Superintendent Scott Laurence asking that the school district take concrete, specific actions to prevent “further discriminatory barriers to school enrollment on behalf of Asian American students who legitimately reside in San Mateo County.”

Huang's demands in the letter included training for district personnel on the proper enrollment forms to be provided to students and parents; proper application of the California Education Code and better understanding of the rights of students who live with caregivers who are not their parents; and adequate assistance of interpreters for parents and students who seek help at the school district offices.

Millbrae City Councilmember Wayne Lee and San Mateo Deputy Mayor David Lim, whose cities are in the affected school district, praised the letter as an informal way for both parties to meet the common goal of ensuring equal enforcement of education policies for all students.

“The letter sent by the attorney for the students proposes basic, common-sense changes to the implementation of enrollment policies which we hope the school district will implement,” said Deputy Mayor Lim. “While all parties await the findings of the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights investigation, implementing the suggested changes is a good first step towards ensuring equal enforcement of enrollment policies to all students.”

Councilmember Lee noted, “The proposed changes help to start the dialogue between the district and the affected families.”

Lee also added that he hoped both sides would continue to meet informally without necessarily waiting for a finding from the U.S. Department of Education.

“To the degree our community can discuss issues amongst each other will only serve to strengthen our community bonds.”

Earlier this year, the school district confirmed that it was under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education after reports were filed on behalf of Asian American students alleging discriminatory treatment in school enrollment and placement procedures.

Patch will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.


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Bren September 26, 2012 at 10:57 PM
I hate to say it, but I'm a bit troubled by one of the word choices in this article. I'm sure it was unintentional, but the phrase, "Many cried discrimination on the part of the school district..." implies that the students' allegations are not valid. It sounds too much like "she cried rape," a phrase which is usually used by people seeking to discount or minimize the experiences of victims.
Jennifer van der Kleut September 27, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Bren - I see your point. My original intention with the use of the word "cried" was because the discrimination is not proven and the district denies it, but it was never my intention to discount the victims' stories and experiences. I considered the word "accused," but many of the "accusations" weren't made officially....guess it's hard to find the perfect word in this situation. Any suggestions? And thanks again for the feedback.
Claudia Rosenburg May 19, 2014 at 01:50 PM
I'm not sure if this entirely fits the meaning you are intending, but maybe using the word "implicated" would work? I think it's horrible that this needed to be written in the first place. If the students live in the school zone, they should be allowed to attend school there! Claudia Rosenburg | http://www.obrienlawpgh.com/


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