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ENCOURAGING TOLERANCE HART SCHOOL DISTRICT SEEKS PROGRAMS AFTER RACE INCIDENTS.

Byline: Eugene Tong Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - The Hart High School District is forming an ad hoc committee to identify programs and strategies to encourage diversity and tolerance on its campuses after several Valencia High students complained they were subjected to racial slurs from other students.

The William S. Hart Union High School District board unanimously approved the action earlier this week after a half-dozen parents and residents testified about hostile incidents involving some African-American students on campus.

``They said there were racist slurs between students, and nothing was being done about it,'' district spokeswoman Pat Willett said Friday.

Before the school board's action, parents had met with Valencia High officials to discuss the problem, Willett said.

``There has been ongoing dialogue all the way across,'' she said. ``It was identified as not necessarily a Valencia High problem or a district problem, but as a community problem - that schools are a reflection of the community that they served.''

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations urged local government and schools to increase diversity training and hate crime enforcement after a church, a park and three local elementary schools were defaced with anti-black and anti-Semitic graffiti.

The commission also probed tensions at Valencia High, where several fights instigated by racial slurs targeted at African-Americans were reported.

The committee will have up to 30 members, including students, parents, district staff and board members. Also involved are the city Human Relations Forum, the county Sheriff's Department and the Human Relations Commission, Willett said.

``We are becoming a more diverse community,'' she said. ``There is no doubt about that. We already have a number of programs in place that address diversity, that address bullying, that address harassment. ... This committee is going to focus on what's out there and how we can do a better job.''

From 1990 to 2003, Santa Clarita's population increased from 110,000 to nearly 163,000, according to Census and city figures. In the same period, the percentage of residents identified as white fell from 80 percent to about 78 percent. African-Americans increased from 1.5 percent to 2 percent, and Asians/Pacific Islanders grew from 4.6 percent to 6 percent.

Dianna Boone, who chairs the city's Human Relations Forum, applauded the Hart district's decision.

``That shows to me a real vested interest on the part of the administration to address that issue,'' said Boone, a city community services administrator. ``Until people speak out and say we need to do something about it, nothing will get done.

``Our city is changing demographically fairly rapidly now. And as we continue to change, we need to be harmonious and to get along.''

Eugene Tong, (661) 257-5253

eugene.tong(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 21, 2004
Words:454
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