Teachers & Parents Push Back On Discrimination, Overreach
By Marc Ang
ARTESIA, CALIFORNIA - Wednesday, January 26, 2021 - Christie Gravitt is a 25-year veteran teacher at Artesia's ABC Unified School District. She is also a parent of a fifth grader at Kennedy STEM Academy. Her daughter was harassed this week for being exposed to COVID and forced to quarantine for 5 days, even though she consistently tests negative. A negative test is not sufficient in the eyes of the school district and the LA Department of Health.
On Monday, her child was pulled out of class with several others because they were in close contact with someone who had tested positive in their classroom. The school sat the kids on a planter box while they contacted the parents, and then identified which children were vaccinated or not. The vaccinated children were allowed to return to their classrooms, even with the risk that they could be positive or carrying the virus. The unvaccinated students were told they had to leave campus and could not come back for five days to quarantine, until they showed a negative COVID test.
Christy and her husband decided that this was not okay. He refused to pick her up. The school proceeded to put their daughter in a small isolation room by herself with no teacher, supervision or instruction. Finally, Christy’s husband decided that he wasn't going to leave her there and picked her up.
Overnight, they secured an attorney who picked up the case and gave the Gravitts guidance on their rights. They were now determined to send their daughter back to school, knowing that what the school did, under the instructions of the district, was illegal and discriminatory. “It is against the law. They cannot keep her out of school like this. Not to mention this is discrimination, because she's unvaccinated,” Christy said.
Dad walked his daughter over to her classroom the next morning, a Tuesday, and they were met by the principal and three district administrators. Their daughter refused to leave even after they told her to and she said “you cannot deny me my rights”.
Proud mom Christy said, “This is my 11 year old speaking so boldly and, of course, respectfully to them, but she knows her rights. They then escorted her to the office, put her back in the isolation room. The three district administrators went outside on the campus to talk to my husband. One of the district administrators, Christina Weiss, called the Sheriff, saying there are hostile parents at the school. Another district administrator Melinda Ortiz, Director of Schools for ABC unified, heard that there was an attorney on the line and she said ‘I am not talking to an attorney. No way.” The attorney asserted that Christy’s daughter would be coming to school every day and every day they refuse her to come on campus to learn, it’ll be a $25,000 fine.
Ortiz started to get belligerent when she did not like the way the conversation was going. The attorney calmly told her the codes and laws she is breaking including the laws around refusal and denying the child's educational rights and discrimination.
Dad checked on his daughter in the isolation room. While the principal was appropriate with his daughter, the police were not. They confiscated her cell phone, after accusing her of videotaping. Of course there was nothing and in the end, she had her privacy violated.
Another unvaccinated young classmate was told he must quarantine but they will be joining the Gravitt’s daughter tomorrow. This is his second time quarantined in two weeks. He just returned to school last Friday, after having to quarantine for five days. However due to being exposed again on Friday, the clock has now reset. “That’s 10 days of not getting his educational needs met, or being taught by a teacher,” Christy observed.
Both children have done the school provided rapid COVID tests this morning, and tested negative. “It would be as simple as this. Why don't you let everyone test in the morning before they come to school, like in the office?” While that scenario is still discriminatory, wouldn’t that be a less extreme solution?
“We have to stand up. We need to start saying no. The district will say, ‘Oh, we're just following protocols of the LA Department of Health’. The LA Department of Health is breaking the law. By them, following their protocols, they are breaking the law. And more people need to stand up and refuse this and do what I'm doing. Teach your children to speak up.”
Christy saw great unity when people stopped to think. As a teacher she recalls a recent situation around plexiglass. “I can tell you that they made the children suffer by putting up Plexiglass on their desks. It was terrible. Kids couldn't see the board. We couldn't see the students, people complained. And no one listened. The district just said, no, you have to have Plexiglass. Parents didn't like it, children didn't like it. And finally, they took them down. It was like this freedom. Whether you were a vaccinated teacher, or an unvaccinated teacher, everyone was grateful for the Plexiglass to go. Doctors and scientists were saying that. Even our own district was saying that the Plexiglas was actually inhibiting the airflow of the HEPA filters we have in the class. So it wasn't healthy for us. And the other thing is, it's just divided so many people. It's divided staffs, friendships, families. I'm very lucky that I do work in an environment where everyone is pretty supportive. Still, it's caused a little bit of tension here and there. Because it's become so political, and this shouldn't be a political thing. Not to mention, this isn't a vaccine. A vaccine prevents the disease. This is not a vaccine when you can still get the disease.”
Christy makes the clear distinction that the problem is not with her immediate staff. It is the people above them. “My principal has been very professional and kind. She has to follow the protocols of the district. It is the district that is not handling this [properly]. They are the ones complying. And every time you send an email to the district, same thing comes back every time: a standard form letter of ‘we're following the LA County Department of Health and their protocols’. They’re the ones that came to campus today. They're the ones that told my daughter she had to leave. They're the ones that called the police on my husband. It was the district officials, Scott Smith, Christina Weiss, and Director of Schools Melinda Ortiz.”
Bureaucrats doing the bidding of those above them blindly are the problem especially when the foundation is unsound knee jerk policy. These overreactions to COVID and blind reactions become political because they’ve made it this way, when they refuse to take in data or results in the real world, because their partisan team is shutting down discussion and witch hunting anyone looking for truth and nuance. Ultimately, this robs kids of their childhood and strip parents of their rights. Echoing Christy, this must stop and we must stand up. Enough is enough.
Marc Ang ([email protected]) is a community organizer in Southern California and the founder of Asian Industry B2B. He focuses on the minority conservative experience and is a lead proponent for the school choice initiative "Educational Freedom Act" in California. Marc’s book “Minority Retort” will be released in early 2022.