Carolina Velez (804) 868-0191 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Huguenot High School Principal to Publicly Apologize for
Discrimination Against Latino Students and Families
2/28/15 Richmond, VA – After more than two years of struggle, Latino students and families fighting discrimination have won concessions from the new administration. The group, Latin@ Students and Families United for Inclusive Schools, formed after Huguenot H.S. principal Jafar Barakat searched the backpacks of Latino students based on their race and threatened them with reprisals related to their immigration status if they didn’t comply. When families gathered to formulate a response, they shared stories that exposed a pattern of discriminatory treatment. Now, under the leadership of new school superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden, RPS is finally beginning to respond to the list of demands they crafted. RPS will hold an event on Monday, March 2nd at 1:00 pm at Huguenot High School to apologize to current and former students, families and community members.
The apology, one of the group’s demands that Dr. Bedden agreed to during a face-to-face meeting, is greeted with cautious optimism by the families. “This sounds good, but we will be watching to make sure they follow through on all of our demands,” said Claudia Rodriguez whose daughter was enrolled at Huguenot at the time of the incident. “This was just one incident but there are many ongoing problems. We will continue to fight until we have justice for all of our children.”
The previous administration created a Multicultural Task Force in response to the group’s demands, which included access to interpretation services, an immediate end to threats based on immigration status and others. Students and families formally opposed the task force, which included service providers and professionals, but no one from among the group that presented the demands. Their concerns were ignored and the Task Force continued for more than two years without producing any visible results. The students and parents continued to organize during this time. When Dr. Bedden stepped into the superintendent role, they initiated the ongoing series of talks that led to this apology.
“We showed the principal that he can’t push the Latino community around without consequences,” said Jonathan Villatoro, who has stayed engaged with the struggle since graduating from Huguenot and accepting a scholarship with Rolls Royce. “We’re going to keep going until we have accomplished all of our demands and if they stop working with us, we’re going to pick up our protest signs and get right back out there.”
For more information including the full list of demands visit www.waysidecenter.org