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'I just want them to stop ...' 

A four-year study finds a nightmare of abuse, bullying and sexual harassment for Latino students in some Little Rock schools, with reports of complaints falling on deaf ears. What's going on, and can anything be done to stop it?

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The study was expanded to other schools that exceeded the "threshold" of a population that was more than 25 percent Latino. The patterns seen earlier continued. "We actually had to change the nature of the questions because it became so overwhelming in terms of the sense of predatory activity," Trevino-Richard said. "Sometimes — because there are ethical concerns, like a kid who was exposing himself — we actually found the name [of the perpetrator] and reported it ... . At that point the ethical concerns of confidentiality were challenged and we had an ethical duty to report the individual who was responsible."

The responses the study garnered from parents and students who tried to report the abuse find that they often felt nothing was done. Trevino-Richard recalled a parent at Henderson Middle School who said he'd reported the sexual harassment of his daughter. "His daughter had been harassed, so he went to the teacher," Trevino-Richard said. "The teacher went to the principal. The principal said I can't do anything about it — just blew it off."

From the translated response of a Latino parent at Wakefield Elementary: "My daughter was picked on by two black kids and when she talked to the teacher, the teacher ignored her. One time, she was in the bathroom and a black girl sneaked under the door and showed my daughter her private parts. My daughter ran out of the bathroom and went to her teacher, but nothing was done. I also talked to the teacher, but they don't want to hear it. I talked to my daughter about not having bad feelings in her heart toward these kids."

At Hall High, Trevino-Richard said, the pattern continued, only with the added element of prolific gang activity and drug dealing. There were around 160 Latino students out of a student body of over 1,000 at Hall at the time the study was conducted, Richard said.

"There were these conflicts there that were the same kind of sexual harassment and bullying," Trevino-Richard said. "At Hall High, a lot of Latinos noted the emergence of [Latino] gangs, primarily as a protective device. In other words, the blacks would come in groups, and in order to protect themselves, the Latinos developed a kind of gang response." At Hall High, the study called sexual harassment of girls "a serious problem," with both black and Latino parents expressing concern that their daughters had reported being inappropriately touched by male students. Among Latino girls at Hall, the study said: "There was no indication from these students that any action was taken by responsible parties to stop this harassment."

"A most striking commonality among the Latino parents at all five schools is that there is a pattern of perceived discrimination by African-American employees (faculty and staff) toward Latino students and parents," the overall summary of the study says. "When asked about the worst experience that the parents had with the LRSD, the responses were staggering. This involved African-American bus drivers, cafeteria workers, security guards, as well as some teachers and administrators. ... Latino students also [corroborated] independently of their parents what they perceived as a pattern of discriminatory behavior by African-American students and employees toward Latinos." Trevino-Richard said reports from Latino students included everything from bus drivers who made Latinos sit at the back of the bus to Latinos believing that black cafeteria workers give African-American students bigger portions at lunch.

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