School of Education: Legal Seminar Videos

Illegal Discrimination: Scenario 1 Discussion


First Scenario Answers

Dr. Erma Jean Sims,
Sonoma State University

I'm hoping you had a fruitful discussion with your colleagues. The question is whether Miguel's being discriminated against by his teacher Ms. Olsen. Miguel is being discriminated against based on his national origin, his ethnic group identification, and in this instance his language. Now the law is very clear about race, and ethnicity, and national origin. It does not specifically state that it's illegal to discriminate against someone based on their language. If you look back over the law that we covered before this slide, you'll notice that language was not specifically denoted in the law. I chose this scenario because it's sort of in that gray area. If Ms. Olsen had simply said "Miguel, I wish all of you wetbacks would go back to Mexico." or "I'd really wish you'd stop using that inferior language in the classroom." It would be so obvious that she was discriminating against him based on his ethnicity, national origin, and his language. But in this instance she has made some snide remarks. And these are those more insidious comments that are not so very obvious about his culture. We know that language certainly is a part of culture and so Miguel has a reasonable belief to think that Ms. Olsen is discriminating against him. We know that Miguel has informed the principal; so the question becomes does the principal have a responsibility to investigate Miguel's complaint about Ms. Olsen? Clearly he does. Even if he believes that Miguel's allegations are groundless, he still has a responsibility to investigate Miguel's complaints and concerns. He needs to sit down with Miguel, get a full understanding of what his allegations are, bring Ms. Olsen in, share with her Miguel's concerns and admonish her that she is breaking the law. In many instances, the school administrator, principal, or vice principal will also bring Ms. Olsen and Miguel together to discuss this problem which is also very appropriate if the two stories about this instance seem very different. So the principal, we know has a responsibility to investigate Miguel's complaints. Miguel certainly in number three, what rights does Miguel have to protest discrimination based on race ethnicity and language. He has the California Education Code section 200 which it gives him the legal right to complain against discrimination. He's got the code of regulations giving him the right to make allegations of discriminations against Ms. Olsen and if Ms. Olsen should take it further perhaps shove, push, assault, or batter Miguel based on his ethnicity, national origin, or language then we have a hate crime. And that requires criminal action for her behavior. So in this instance even though it's not overt or obvious discrimination we still have discrimination based on the law.

CREDITS: Instruction and Content by Dr. Erma Jean Sims, Sonoma State University. Videography and Technical support by Mark Niemann, Sonoma State University