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Students call to DUSD to recognize sexism and racism in schools

Foto: Carlos Casillas

The Downey youth gathered to demand an end to sexual harassment, violence, and racism; among the teachers mentioned, they accuse David Niemeyer of sexual harassment and mismanagement of the DUSD All-District Band.

By: Clarissa Arceo and Carlos Casillas

About 170 students and at least 10 parents from all over Downey, gathered together outside of the DUSD building on Monday, June 29, in demanding a change in the school system after numerous cases and complaints of sexual and racial assault were left unsolved and unrecognized. 

There are 17 brave students- the majority of whom are alumni of Warren and DHS- who got together and planned a ‘demonstration’ outside of the DUSD building after various stories of sexual and racial assaults in Downey went viral on Twitter. 

One of the organizers who did not attend the event for her safety, (we reserve her name), shares the reason for the group coming together in the first place, “We’ve made an Instagram page for our group, @downeyresistance, and collaborated because of our own experiences with sexual and racial assault in the DUSD.

She went on to say; “Some of us even work in the city and see firsthand how much the city needs to change. We’re hoping to motivate others to come out and speak up. Our school system needs to stop sweeping things under the rug.”

Foto: Clarissa Arceo. Edición: Karina Montes

The students started by mentioning that the Downey City Council approved a $ 2.3 million increase to the police budget, just as Downey Latino was the only newspaper in the city to release it on June 27: “That $ 2.3 million may have gone to sexual assault counselors, but again it went to the people who terrorized us,” the guys said.

The protesters named one by one the council members who unanimously approved the increase to the Police: “Their names are Blanca Pacheco, Sean Ashton, Rick Rodríguez, Claudia Frometa and Alex Saab. They must be eliminated, the election season is coming in November and we have to vote for them,” they said.

The young protesters, at all times, wanted to keep their identities safe due to the sensitivity of the issues they discussed, and fear retaliation if they are identified, which is why Downey Latino respects their anonymity and will not publish names or faces in respect to their privacy. 

One of the speakers at the event read a letter written to the Board of Education out loud listing the changes demanded by the students: “All schools within the district should have licensed and trained counselors and therapists to deal with mental and emotional health, sexual assault, drug usage, bullying, domestic violence of any kind, and rehabilitation”.

To be clear, students must also take accountability and are invited to speak about their hardships. Immediate punishment- often affects Indigenous, people of color, immigrants, or discourage the students from school and adversely affects their performance ability,” the first part read.

The coordination and organization excelled in the protest, as they tried to keep the distance from each other. They brought hand sanitizer, wipes, and absolutely everyone was wearing a mask. Likewise, they provided water and snacks for the participants.

The speaker goes on to the second point of the list, “No policing of any kind on school campuses. No campus within the entire district should have police presence on campus unless there is definite or suspicious activity. Police do not make our students feel safe nor do they even maintain safety or peace on campus.”

The third demand written by the group lists, “The pledge of allegiance needs to be removed from all school platforms immediately; it is nationalistic, racist, false and inclusive; must be removed”.

It continued to read: “All teachers and staff must complete anti-racism training in combating systemic racism in schools. All current English and History textbooks need to be thoroughly investigated for contribution to systemic racism. Should it be subject, it should be filed for indefinite removal.

Foto: Clarissa Arceo. Edición: Karina Montes

The students maintained order during the two and a half hours that the event lasted. Some students came forward to share their traumatic stories at school. At one point in the protest, they approached the Brookshire Ave sidewalk to raise their voices, but never blocked or marched down the street.

The speaker notes that all DUSD faculty and staff who fall under the category of assault of any kind should own up to their faults and not be allowed social transfers, which allows them to transfer schools within the district after allegations are made against them.

Accusing Niemeyer

A Hispanic mother, who requested anonymity, charged that when requesting further information on Warren High School’s band, directed by David Niemeyer, the school officials directed her to the school district; When they addressed the DUSD, the district refused to provide further information. 

The only objective of them is to keep the band to continue profiting and continue to extract money, of which we as parents, never give us accounts.” He claims that parents bear 90 percent of the expenses of the students who make up the band.

Another mother at the demonstration gives insight on the money raised by the band, “We do events, we donate food, we attend concessions, all that money stays in the group and they never give us accounts.” She mentions the sale of Fireworks each year, assuring, “There are 22 thousand dollars of profit and they tell us that there is no money.

An educator from another school district expresses his concern for the multiple accusations against David Niemeyer, whom they describe as a racist and sexual harasser, in an email addressed to DUSD Superintendent John García.

The educator demands Garcia a “thorough” investigation of all the accusations; “I demand that the appropriate actions are taken. I demand that every victim be heard. I demand justice for all the victims,” he says in his email.

Foto: Carlos Casillas

Given the educator’s concern, the superintendent simply replied that if he has any allegations against Niemeyer, he should make them by mail to the Human Resources department or to the principal of Warren High School, and sentenced: “There is no need to ‘demand’ what is already our longstanding practice”, according to Garcia.

According to data from the DUSD website, Latino students who attend schools in the school district account for the vast majority at 87 percent. In contrast, white teachers who impart in schools make up 60 percent of the total.

The DUSD‘s reaction

On their social media, the School District wrote a few brief words: “We thank the youth of our community for sharing their recommendations for change with us. They were read, reviewed and discussed during today’s Human Relation Council (HRC) steering committee meeting…

Maybe you might be interested in the article: Downey High School hides a case of racial violence, posted in January.