– An Open Letter
No child should be bullied the way our son has been bullied. The bullies were not his fellow students, but the very teachers and administrators who were supposed to protect him. We need your support to help us fight back – not just to protect our son, but to prevent others from being victims as well.
When the bullies are armed with unfettered authority such as school administrators and teachers, our children become victims without any voice. Our son was the Junior Class President at San Ramon Valley High School in Danville, California. Half way through his junior year, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming the Associated Student Body (ASB) President for his senior year by declaring his candidacy. We were proud that he wanted to continue to serve his peers and the school community. He knew it would be a tough campaign, but he was not afraid of losing. He had run and lost before. What happened to him in the end was much worse than losing.
Early in February, as part of his ASB President campaign, he collaborated with four fellow students and created a James Bond type parody video, which was uploaded to YouTube. Our son portrayed the spy who was the hero of the video. The storyline revolved around a professional online gamer, taken by bad guys who ultimately was saved by the hero. The goal was to draw viewers in by entertaining them while at the same time sending the message that our son was a brave leader who would fight for fellow students. Although some students who saw the video found it funny, a couple of students unfortunately took offense. As soon as our son found out that students may have been offended, he had the video removed by one of his fellow students from YouTube immediately.
A few hours before the school was scheduled to announce the results of the election, our son was removed from class and taken to the school’s administration office. What should have been a routine conversation about how the video might have been perceived differently quickly turned into a high-pressure interrogation. Three assistant principals harassed our son and employed intimidation tactics. He was interrogated during his lunch time without food or water. One of the assistant principals had the audacity to even eat her lunch in front of him. He was not even allowed to leave to use the restroom. They attempted to confiscate his cell phone, so he could not contact anyone including us. While his fellow students who participated in the campaign video where interrogated for less than an hour and released, they held him captive for almost three hours and continued to keep him past the end of the school day. Our son tried to remain calm and collected while undergoing countless accusations and punishment threats from each assistant principal. Further, while still being interrogated, the school disqualified him from running for ASB President even after the election was over! They declared one of his opponents as the winner of that election without giving him the opportunity to present his side. We were never notified by phone or email regarding this atrocious maltreatment of our son. Even now, it pains us to think about the horrific treatment our son experienced at the hands of the administrators and how scared our son must have felt.
We initiated the first contact between us and the school principal. It took 4 days before she finally responded. The school unfairly punished our son by stripping him of his current junior class presidency and suspended him indefinitely from his Leadership class. Even with their despicable actions, we tried to reason with the school administration about their unjust punishments. We felt strongly that our son had won the election and so we repeatedly requested the vote count for the ASB Presidency to be released. But the school wouldn’t hear our plea until we sought legal help. Only after a formal complaint letter from our legal counsel to the school district that we finally received a letter informing us that our son will be reinstated to his Junior Class Presidency, will be reinstated into Leadership class, and will serve as the next school year’s incoming ASB President as “he received the most votes” during the election. This occurred almost four months later, and two weeks before school ended. Although they’ve reversed their punitive actions against our son, he was never given the opportunity to return to his Leadership class and resume his junior class presidency again. They unapologetically stole his education from him. Further, even though the school district’s Superintendent acknowledged the fact that the video did not contain any “hate speech”, the school’s action had clearly violated our son’s First Amendment Rights – his freedom of speech and expression. And it was also clear that the school had violated the rights of the students who voted for our son overwhelmingly. The school further continued their bullying agenda against our son and our family in social media through their surrogates. The school and District made no effective efforts to limit the negative exposure that continued to degrade our son’s character and reputation. They even supported a student body protest against our son during school hours. These appalling actions culminated into his losing jobs and volunteer opportunities.
No child should ever have to endure this institutional bullying that the school system is allowing to happen. No family should ever have to suffer the dreadful experience of being vilified on social media. Through this ordeal, our son experienced the meaning of having no voice in the face of school administrators who clearly exercised an overreach of their authoritative powers. Unknowingly, there may be other voiceless children across school communities throughout the country that are experiencing the same. What happened to our son could happen to another child. This is why we have decided to take on this cause and fight back. We are taking the big bullies to the judicial system to seek justice. San Ramon Valley High School’s unreported and unexposed abhorrent institutional bullying behavior must stop. Help us send a message to this school district and all the school districts across the nation, that institutional bullying will not be tolerated. Please join us in our fight and support our cause with your donation. Together, we can stop institutional bullying!
David and Leilanie Yu
- Youliang Weng
- Xinwen Zhang
- May Tian
- Justice Fairness
- Mei Li
Organizer and beneficiary
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