Vancouver father says school district is not doing enough to address racist incidents

A Vancouver parent is frustrated with what he sees as the school district’s lack of response to incidents involving racial bias.
Published: Apr. 18, 2023 at 10:47 AM PDT
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VANCOUVER, Wash. (KPTV) - A Vancouver parent is frustrated with what he sees as the school district’s lack of response to incidents involving racial bias.

Lawrence Stanfill-El said his daughter, Aaniyah, has been targeted and harassed repeatedly, he believes, because of her race.

“No one says anything about it, no one helps her. No one talks to her and lets her know it’s not going to continue to happen,” said Stanfill-El.

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Letters signed by the principal of Truman Elementary School in Vancouver document a series of incidents, some of them involving racial slurs, in which different students targeted, harassed, or assaulted Aaniyah, who is Black, when she was in the 3rd and 5th grade. Stanfill-El said there have also been more recent incidents at Gaiser Middle School.

“And the challenge for us it happens every year and there’s no oversight about it,” said Stanfill-El.

Vancouver Public Schools would not comment about the specific incidents involving Aaniyah, but in a written statement, a spokesperson said: “Vancouver Public Schools takes any act of discriminatory speech or action very seriously, and we continue to strive to make each student feel welcome and celebrated in our schools. We do not tolerate discriminatory or harassing behavior.”

VPS tracks incidents involving what it considers discriminatory harassment and name calling of a protected class. Over the last two school years, there have been 113 incidents involving discriminatory harassment and 171 incidents involving name calling of a protected class.

In each of the incidents involving Aaniyah documented by administrators at Truman Elementary School, the school said parents were contacted and discipline measures were applied. But given that the incidents have continued, Stanfill-El doesn’t think the district’s current policies are enough to protect his daughter.

“The schools not only need to implement a no-tolerance policy, but they need to investigate the matter and make sure that it doesn’t continue to happen. You know, speak out against it,” said Stanfill-El.

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According to the district, its board of directors approved an equity police and equity lens tool in February 2022, and the district continues to implement those in its decisions. The district says staff respond to every alleged incident of discriminatory speech.