CA First-Grader Disciplined, Harassed By School Officials For Writing ‘Any Lives’ Matter on BLM Drawing – Opinion

In a school discrimination case that could set a precedent for beleaguered parents across the country frustrated with Critical Race Theory-related issues in the classroom, a California woman is set to file suit against her child’s school district after her 7-year-old daughter was punished and humiliated for drawing a Black Lives Matter picture for her friends that also included the sentiment that “any lives” matter. The punishment and incident were not disclosed to the mother by the school. She only found out about them after a parent shared it with her one year later.

Chelsea Boyle’s daughter, “Jane” (we have changed the name to protect the privacy of the student) was a first-grader at Viejo Elementary School in Mission Viejo, CA, an Orange County suburb nestled about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.  Black Lives Matter was a topic that could be heard and seen everywhere at the moment, including in professional sports, the media, and even the classroom. Jane, who is white, decided to draw a picture of her friends, who spanned the racial diaspora at the diverse elementary school that offers a unique “two-way language immersion” program in Spanish/English.

The picture was meant to represent her closest friends of all different races, and in her uneven, first-grader scrawl, she wrote “Black Lives mater [sic]” at the top, followed by another sentiment, “any lives.” The picture went home with one of Jane’s friends.

“Jane” says her picture was meant to show she cares about all of her friends.

The trouble began when she was 7 years old and her family moved to this location.

Just before July 4, I met Boyle with Alexander Haberbush, her attorney at the LexRex Institute. We recorded Boyle’s story to find out how serious it was.

According to Boyle, when the parents of Jane’s friend saw the drawing, they called the school to complain, deeming it offensive to their family. Jesus Becerra, Viejo Elementary school principal, then allegedly sought Jane out to inquire about the drawing. Jane was forced to apologize to her friend for drawing the picture…but not privately. Jane was required to apologize on the playground, in front of fellow students and the school staff. On top of the apology, Jane was “benched” as punishment, meaning she had her recess time revoked and was forced to sit on a bench while her classmates played during their free time.

In an even more infuriating turn of events, Boyle says she wasn’t notified of the incident by school officials. Boyle learned about the incident from a mutual friend, almost a year later in March 2022. The entire incident happened completely without Jane’s knowledge. Boyle spent hundreds of hours volunteering for school events and was involved in many school activities. Jane did not understand what was happening or why she made the mistake and kept it secret from her.

Boyle stated that she was stunned to hear what happened.

My immediate reaction is just…I feel like I got hit by a bus, but I didn’t understand it. My daughter was being discriminated against, I thought. And I didn’t even want to contact a lawyer, but I just didn’t know what had happened to us.

Jane did not know the reason she was sent to prison for taking that picture, and she spoke with her about it. Boyle claims that her family doesn’t engage in discussion about Black Lives Matter or any other political topic at this time because they are still young. Boyle claims Jane created the image and phrase on her own with completely innocent intentions. Boyle felt unjustified by the harsh punishment.

And then when I talked to my daughter — I think she said it was so sad. And and I said, “Well, what did the principal say to you?” and [she said] “I can’t draw pictures anymore. And I can’t write those words.” And I said, “Why did you write [those words]?”

I don’t teach [about]All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter [or]Anything in my home because my children are still too young [for politics]. My children view color as an adjective, not as a colour. It is my goal to teach them that the world shouldn’t be the way it currently is. That’s how I’m trying to make my personal change. [H]er best friend is brown — not black, but brown — and She didn’t understand why she didn’t matter, why She is her friend didn’t matter. She has another friend that is Japanese; she doesn’t understand.

It wasn’t “all lives matter,” it was “any life.” It was something she came up on her own. She just didn’t understand it. I was shocked that it seemed so innocent.

Boyle says the most concerning part of what she felt was an unwarranted punishment was its effect on Jane’s desire to draw. Jane has ADHD and drawing is her greatest and most effective therapy. Jane was puzzled as to why the 7-year old had stopped drawing. It had been difficult for her to draw before, and it had made her wonder if she had ever used a crayon or marker. As it turned out, as a part of Jane’s punishment, Principal Becerra allegedly instructed Jane to refrain from drawing any more pictures for her friends at school.

Boyle felt devastated and reached out immediately to Becerra, as well as other officials in the district, to vent her sorrow and get some answers. Although she admittedly was somewhat anxious, she said that it wasn’t surprising.

[I sent]This is my angry, in all caps email. In less than 24 hours nobody replied to my email. So I sent another email, a lot more well-thought-out, took my time, and I said, “Listen, this is what I want. I want a formal apology to me, I want a formal apology to my daughter, and I want a formal apology to this other family, because they didn’t know that you guys didn’t contact me and you made it very uncomfortable for a lot of the parents and students at school, unbeknownst to me. And that’s all I want.”

Haberbush says they essentially told her to “take a hike” and what she was saying was not true.

Orange County mom said that she hesitated to reach out to a lawyer, but believed strongly in what had happened to her daughter. The insult was further compounded when Becerra’s terse response and relative silence of her school board members were ignored. Boyle identified one board member, Gila Jones, as responsive and concerned, but in the end, Jones indicated there wasn’t much she or the school board could do in this case.

Parents have the ability to complain about discipline actions through district disciplinary procedures. This system ultimately falls under the control of the school board. Boyle wasn’t allowed to submit her grievances in the manner required by official disciplinary guidelines. Furthermore, the school board couldn’t provide any resolution.

Boyle knew enough. Boyle began to search for pro-bono civil right attorneys. She was connected to The Gavel Project in Phoenix, which is a non-profit charity that represents civil rights in cases involving government overreach. Ryan Heath (CEO and founder) helped her get in-state representation from Alexander Haberbush at the LexRex Institute. “legal and public outreach organization that works to empower private individuals to hold government officials at every level accountable to their sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of their various states by informing, persuading, and advocating on behalf of those who have been denied its liberties.”

Haberbush believes this case is not just about one mother and her child who were wronged. This could be a precedent case for parents who are dealing with similar issues. It can also create a legal ripple effect which could lead to severe consequences for districts and public school officials that overreach when it comes down to compelled expression. And that is exactly how Haberbush identifies this case…one of compelled speech, which would place the burden of proof on Becerra and the school.

It’s a compelled speech issue; obviously compelled speech is one of the toughest tests that they have to meet, if they want to say that this is valid, “we can do it.” We be believe that there is no way that they can meet that standard and we believe this is an egregious deprivation of her rights and that Chelsea should be vindicated.

He added that he took on the case because he believes Boyle and her daughter were genuinely wronged, and he doesn’t want to see it happen again to anyone else.

Ryan was not reached and she did not contact my office to try to make money. Clients who only want to make a quick buck will be turned away. She wanted an apology from the school. [for them to recognize]They had committed wrongdoing, and she needed to make amends to her daughter.

Haberbush said that although money does not motivate, his business may seek damages in certain cases. But what they want most is an apology and a verdict.

Primarily what we want is a judicial determination and recognition that wrongdoing occurred, so that it won’t happen again because nobody should have to go through this.

Boyle hopes the Viejo Elementary Principal has had some downtime to reflect and relax during the summer vacation.

I hope when this podcast comes out that he sees, oh…she’s not dropping it. I’m serious. I don’t want this to happen to my kids. I don’t want it to happen to your kids.

Haberbush states that next is filing a lawsuit against district. It is his belief that the next step in the process should be to file a lawsuit against the district.

Boyle was asked whether she planned to send her daughter back at the same school this fall. However, the owner of a small business said she wanted to but also wondered what legal obstacles her family would face as they pursue legal options.

As of publication, Jesus Becerra was not available for comment.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Quoted material has been edited for clarity.)

*Listen to the entire interview with Chelsea Boyle and Alexander Haberbush here (available wherever you find your podcasts):

About Post Author

Follow Us