Lyon County, Nevada (county seat Yerington) gave 67.36% of its votes to Donald Trump for the presidency in 2016– a deep red vote in an otherwise urban blue state. [SoSNV] It would be nice to speak of Nevada as a tolerant blue state, but while Nevada is about 94.2% urban [ISU.edu] there are large portions (in terms of landscape) which are deeply rural and deeply bigoted. Witness the reports of bullying non-white students at Yerington High School, as reported in the Reno Gazette Journal.
A Bit of Background
Lyon County is located east of the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area, and the largest population in the northern end of the county is located in and in proximity to Fernley (± 20,000) There are approximately 54,000 residents in Lyon County. [Census] Yerington is home to about 3,071 of the county’s residents, and approximately 80% are white, 18% are Hispanic, about 6% are Native American, and 8% are “other” which includes African American. [Substat] “Others” are among those having a hard time in Yerington.
“Photos of a Lyon County sheriff’s deputy’s son holding a gun and wearing a belt with knives were posted on social media. Superimposed over the photos were the words “The red neck god of all gods … we bout to go (racial slur) huntin,” and “Watch out (racial slur).”
It is unclear whether the deputy’s son or friends wrote the comments, but it was enough to scare Taylissa and Jayla as dozens of classmates began forwarding the girls the posts.
Taylissa and Jayla stayed home from school the next day. They filled out police reports. They worried when they went outside.” [RGJ]
And then — nothing happened.
The mayor dismissed the social media posts as examples of teenage immaturity. The chief of police said they were examples of Free Speech. The principal of the high school says the school needs to have a “unity day.” The county superintendent of schools said school authorities were having a hard time controlling the situation. Some residents said things were cooling off until “reporters started asking questions and stirring things up.” If you’re thinking these perspectives could just as easily be associated with the heart of Jim Crow Dixieland, you’d be right.
In beautiful downtown Yerington there seems to be a safe zone for bullies, in spite of state legislation specifically prohibiting such conduct:
“NRS 388.135 Bullying and cyber-bullying prohibited. A member of the board of trustees of a school district, any employee of the board of trustees, including, without limitation, an administrator, principal, teacher or other staff member, a member of a club or organization which uses the facilities of any public school, regardless of whether the club or organization has any connection to the school, or any pupil shall not engage in bullying or cyber-bullying on the premises of any public school, at an activity sponsored by a public school or on any school bus.”
So, NO the incident wasn’t a matter of “free speech,” the offensive postings were a direct violation of NRS 388.135. Nor is there much evidence in the reporting that the local police and school district authorities paid much attention to the provisions of NRS 388.1351 in which specific directives are set forth for dealing with bullying and cyber-bulling.
And when a parent did try to meet with school officials, the following is hardly exemplary of compliance with Nevada statutes:
“On one of the occasions Charles Tolliver went to the school to try to meet with administrators, a student standing with a group of girls said to him, “You don’t even know the definition of (racial slur).”
“If you ever call my daughters (racial slurs) …” he said before stopping himself.
After repeated requests for help had been ignored, Tolliver said, he called the principal a bigot.
School officials have accused Tolliver of being hostile and aggressive. He was given a trespass warning and is only allowed on school grounds with prior permission.
“… you interacted with me as well as Yerington High School students in a hostile, aggressive and threatening manner, resulting in the contacting of law enforcement,” the trespass notice from Principal Mattice said.” [RGJ]
Thus, the step-parent who sought to meet with a principal over repeated instances of bullying is met with surly students, an unhelpful principal, and then becomes the designated villain of the story according to Lyon County school officials. Quite evidently, Lyon County has done what it must according to State law, it has all the right words on paper (pdf) — it just chooses not to enforce its own policies. One might want to ask if the principal “investigated” incidents of blocked doorways, jammed doors, hate speech, and racial epithets within one day of a report, as required by school district policy?
There’s no need to be tactful about this situation. First, the youngsters spouting hateful epithets and blocking doorways didn’t come into this world as little bigots. They learned it somewhere and that somewhere is nearly always at home. Secondly, their peers are obviously supportive. Few adolescents will do much which doesn’t comport with peer pressure. Schools are supposed to have a socializing effect, i.e. negative attitudes and prejudices which come from home and are supported by some peers are to be addressed and rectified if at all possible. It is not the responsibility of a school to make bigots feel comfortable. However, this is made more difficult when…
(i) We have a president who says there were very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville, VA when one side was composed of white nationalist supremacist bigots and thugs.
(ii) We have a situation in which the Attorney General of the US who has decimated the capacity of that agency to supervise state and local official interactions with members of minority communities — “it’s a local problem.”
(iii) We have an environment in which local officials are allowed to ignore, dismiss, or diminish incidents of racial bigotry and prejudice without serious consequences.
(iv) We have social norms and values being curtly disdained as “political correctness,” with a slurring of the “s” sound at the end.
In short what we have at Yerington High School is a classic example of what happens when an atmosphere of racial division, with whites on the top of the divide, meets two girls whose parents don’t appreciate having their daughters referred to by the N-word. However, what might we expect in Yerington, in the heart of Nevada’s Trumpland?