Orinda Union School District’s Board Policy states, “The district believes that:
It further asserts, “The district will nurture a climate of mutual respect by teaching principles of good character in the schools and applying them in the community.”
Sounds like a great educational setting for kids, right? Not necessarily, and not for all kids. According to a Contra Costa Times article last Thursday, a Latina second-grader was kicked out of her Orinda elementary school after the district incorrectly determined the 7-year-old was not a resident. In fact, the girl’s mother is a live-in nanny for the Storch family and she and her daughter reside on the second floor of the Storch’s Orinda home.
According to the article, the Storch’s followed all the rules to enroll the girl, providing the documentation necessary for registration, including the mother’s lease-employee agreement, a credit card statement and a pay stub. However, instead of simply verifying the student’s address with the Storch family, the school hired a private investigator who, falsely identifying himself as a car insurance reviewer, questioned the girl’s mother and interrogated the Bay Point neighbors of her grandmother.
Harold Freiman, the school district’s attorney, said he could not speak about the specific investigation, citing student confidentiality laws. Really? Was confidentiality a consideration when the school district sent a private investigator on a covert fishing exhibition to the girl’s grandmother’s house in Bay Point?
The school district’s attorney also claims that districts must ensure legitimate residency of students and “preserve the resources of the district for all the students.” Is spending district funds to “investigate” a second-grader balancing individual rights? Is it preserving resources for students? The answer is emphatically and very obviously, “no.”
Fortunately, there has been a positive turn of events. As a result of community outcry over this ludicrous use of the district’s funds and egregious treatment of a second-grade student, the school district has backed down. In an email from the district’s attorney to the Storch family, the Orinda Union School District stated that the girl could stay.
There is no doubt that the community’s outrage and outreach helped the school district come to its senses. However, I don’t think the emotional turmoil and anxiety placed on a 7-year-old and her mother can be overcome so quickly. And, an email from an attorney does not strike a very conciliatory tone.
It’s a shame that it takes public humiliation and fear of a legal ramification for an elementary school district to open its doors — or rather, keep its doors open — to a child. Not only have these two families been scarred by the district’s sad debacle, but so too has the community in which they live.
In the words of American farmworker, labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. … Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”
Contact Margaret Lavin at [email protected].