Gilbert Public Schools and Monitoring for Civil Rights Violations

Many people think it’s big news that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is being monitored for compliance with constitutional requirements after U.S. District Judge Murray Snow found the sheriff’s office engages in racial profiling.  How many people know that Gilbert Public Schools has been monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice for civil rights violations?

Until recently, we didn’t understand what a really big deal it was for GPS to be monitored by the DOJ. It was HUGE, and continued for about five years. The federal monitoring came about because GPS got caught in religious and racial profiling and other nasty business directed at a thirteen year old kid, who happened to be the unfortunate victim of a prank played by classmates at Mesquite Junior High. The DOJ doesn’t get involved in little things, and being monitored by the DOJ is not something that can be brushed aside.

We’re finding that discrimination is a recurrent theme in GPS, and the same old stuff comes up time and time again:

The teen and his family call it a religious bias incident that was one of many over the years that have targeted the boy because he is a Muslim. Police say it was just a prank that had unfortunate consequences… It was just one of many times that his classmates have labeled him a terrorist. Sometimes he’d retaliate and get suspended. Sometimes, he’d ignore them… Parents were disappointed with the lack of response from the school district.

The racial discrimination that led to DOJ monitoring came not long after a white-supremacist group known as the Devil Dogs operated out of Highland High School.  The Los Angeles Times wrote about the Devil Dogs and how Gilbert Public Schools enabled the group by denying there was a problem:

Not only were the Devil Dogs cool and popular athletes, but they had public support. The Highland High football coach and two teachers wrote on behalf of one member, and two football coaches and a former candidate for the school board wrote on behalf of another. In one proceeding, the Highland High athletic director took the stand on behalf of a wrestling star.

A former Gilbert mayor expressed common sympathies when he wrote that, sure, the boys’ actions had been “obnoxious and aggressive,” but they were behaving “like jocks are supposed to be.” It was at a Highland High prom that the photo was taken of the Devil Dogs flashing their white-power salutes. The picture showed plainly that not only violence but racism was a problem.

Walter Delecki, the superintendent of schools, said that he has heard “rumors” of white supremacists in Gilbert schools, but he dismissed the notion that Devil Dogs are racists, noting that many of their victims are not members of minority groups. “White supremacists don’t beat up white people, to my knowledge,” he said.

When asked about the discrimination at Mesquite Junior High School that brought the DOJ into monitoring GPS, Good Old Dave Allison pooh-poohed the idea, saying he just didn’t believe it.  It was a bunch of politics, sensationalized by the press. Dave’s denials didn’t hold water, and GPS was monitored for a long, long time, turning in regular reports about disciplinary actions in the schools that went into great detail about each report. We’ve seen those reports. Parents don’t see them. Current assistant superintendents all say it wasn’t their job and they don’t know much of anything.

We have made public records requests about the discrimination that led to DOJ monitoring of GPS, and we’ll share them, as always, IF we get them. This is GPS, you know. Business as usual. Some things never change. Want to make a guess about the public records Good Old Dave cheerfully admitted to destroying? He smiled broadly, expecting to be congratulated for not destroying public records related to on-going lawsuits, for which we only have his word, and everyone now knows what Good Old Dave’s word is worth. Nevertheless, inquiring minds want to know what exactly Good Old Dave destroyed before he left his superintendent office.

Connecting the dots leads us back to Highland High School, where bad behavior is again on display.  Here’s an email that went out recently:

Subject: HHS – Appropriate Behavior At Athletic Events

Dear Highland Parents and Sports Fans,

We want to take a moment of your time to thank all of you who have attended our athletic events and continually show your Highland Pride.  It means a great deal to our student athletes to have great support.

There is a disturbing trend nationally and locally toward poor sportsmanship at high school athletic events.  This trend has recently started to affect Highland High School and is causing unacceptable harm to the reputation of our school and community. We want to take a moment to remind everyone that our job as fans at a high school athletic event is to make the environment as positive as possible for all of the participants.  The players, coaches and officials are all there to give their best effort.  Our role is to provide positive feedback and an exciting environment for the game.  We expect adults at high school games to model appropriate behavior and refrain from using profanity, derogatory remarks or yelling at coaches, players, officials or other fans.

There has also been an increase in poor behavior and sportsmanship exhibited by some of our student spectators.  We are addressing these issues campus-wide with the goal of encouraging our student body to be positive influences for our teams both at home and away athletic events.  We need your assistance and support to encourage this positive behavior.

Thank you for your dedication to Highland High School.
HHS Administration

Gee, do you think HHS parents are acting like the folks who ginned up the infamous “We are not widgets” flash mob? That mob was composed of students, teachers and family members, organized by a parent, with help from the Gilbert Education Association, and a wink-wink from the host principal, Dominic Salce:

Calling out to our friend Karma: there’s trouble in River City Highland High School! Look what the superintendent has brought to this school district: openly taunting and mocking school board members because of blatantly false rumors that have been allowed to flourish. Do you think there’s any way that the principal of Highland High School doesn’t know about these rumors proliferating among his staff? This being Gilbert Public Schools where teachers get shafted and principals get protected, nothing will happen, even if Good Old Dominic is the head cheerleader for this gang at HHS. One hundred years of tradition unhampered by progress, indeed!

Back to Judge Murray Snow’s bench slap: Sheriff Joe now has the help of a community advisory board. The community advisory board aims to help restore the public’s confidence by “putting some sunlight into the corners” of the sheriff’s office. So guess what the reaction was: Sheriff Joe’s attorney said, “The monitor cannot tell us what to do or not to do,” which sounds pretty much like what we’ve been hearing from GPS admins lately. Deny, deny, deny. Act like an ostrich. And deny some more, at least until you’re able to retire. Maybe become a GPS vendor, like Wally Delecki did. Some things just don’t change.


UPDATE:  Compare the reaction of Arizona State University officials to frat boys behaving badly on Martin Luther King Day, 2014: 

Local civil rights leaders are calling for an Arizona State University fraternity to be expelled after photos emerged of a Martin Luther King Jr.-themed party where attendees wore stereotypical hip-hop clothes and drank out of watermelon cups. “ASU has suspended chapter operations, can and will take additional action against the individuals involved, and is meeting with the national TKE organization today to take further action,” said Sharon Keeler, an ASU spokeswoman. “ASU has one of the most diverse student bodies of any major university in the country, and it is unfortunate that a few misguided individuals held an offensive party at a time when ASU, the state and the nation are celebrating Dr. King’s achievements and legacy,” Keeler said. “The university will not tolerate this kind of behavior.”

Arizona State University statement condemning the actions of the fraternity:

Tau Kappa Epsilon has been on disciplinary probation with the university since 2012. The party TKE held last weekend was not held on campus and was not a sanctioned university event.  Because of the latest incident, ASU has suspended chapter operations, can and will take additional action against the individuals involved, and is meeting with the national TKE organization today to take further action against the chapter. ASU has one of the most diverse student bodies of any major university in the country, and it is unfortunate that a few misguided individuals held an offensive party at a time when ASU, the state and the nation are celebrating Dr. King’s achievements and legacy. Senior Vice President for Educational Outreach and Student Services James Rund has already spoken to two community leaders, Rev. Oscar Tillman, and Rev. Jarrett Maupin, about the university’s response to this incident. The university will not tolerate this kind of behavior.

Gilbert Public Schools: Business as usual.

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