Southern California student Coral Aviles will sue her school district for racist remarks made by her teacher, reports CBS Los Angeles.
Aviles says the incident occurred last year. She describes what happened in a statement released by MALDEF:
"Last year, during the World Cup I wore a 'Mexico' soccer jersey to school. I walked into my performing arts class, and my teacher asked me in front of the class if I was Mexican. I responded 'yes.' She then asked me in a loud voice: what was I doing in her country? She said that it was because of people like me that she had to pay high taxes and high insurance rates. I tried to speak with the principal about it. When I returned, the teacher asked me to leave the classroom because I was crying so much. I never expected to be treated so badly because of who I am."
Nancy Ramirez, the lawyer on the case, spoke to the HuffPost about the incident. She said that Aviles spent the next day picking up trash with the custodian during that period because she was too distraught to face her teacher. On the third and final day of school, the Bear Valley Middle School principal asked the teacher to apologize to the whole class. Aviles spent that period with the yearbook committee, even though she does not belong to it.
Ramirez, who has been working closely with Aviles, says, "the family has indicated that there was a lot of racism in the community, but they just never expected it to come out in the school house." In the press release, Aviles' mother claims that all of her queries to the school administration have gone unanswered.
The lawsuit (PDF), which was filed with the help of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), alleges that the teacher and the Bear Valley Unified School District violated Aviles' civil rights by discriminating against her on the basis of national origin in a place of public accommodation. The suit also alleges that the district was negligent in its handling of the incident, which caused emotional distress to Aviles.
Through the lawsuit, Aviles and MALDEF hope that the school district can take steps against this happening again, and to have a better plan in place in case it does. They are also seeking unspecified damages for Aviles.
Ramirez confirms that the teacher in question is still teaching at the school. A representative for the Bear Valley Unified School District could not be reached for comment.