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District investigated for discrimination
June 30, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

Does the San Mateo Union High School District discriminate against certain students when it comes to school assignments?

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating such a complaint, a spokesman confirmed this week. While details of the complaint are sparse, the allegation is that "the San Mateo Union High School District discriminates against students of Chinese descent in enrollment, by holding them to different standards — for demonstrating residency or guardianship — than students of other races or national origins,” according to the U.S. Department of Education spokesman.

Those who have met the families who lodged the complaint explained it stems from students who live in Millbrae and had hoped to attend Mills High School. Instead, students were sent to Capuchino High School.

The school assignment policy generally calls for students to attend the school of residency. Students living in Millbrae and those who went through the Millbrae Elementary School District, for example, are most often assigned to attend Mills. There are exceptions to that, however, said Kirk Black, associate superintendent of human resources and administrative services, speaking generally about the policy.

For instance, students may have requested and been approved for a transfer, have a sibling or senior privilege for a school outside of their normal assignment, to be part of a program like English language development or special that are not available at all schools, or may be transferred to make up units. School capacity issues can also play into assignment, he said.

The district declined to give further details but did provide a statement.

"The Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint, and the district is fully cooperating with the investigation. We cannot, however, comment on the substance of an ongoing investigation,” according to the statement.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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