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Back to Boarding School? Teacher Allegedly Punches Pit River First Grader

A first grade teacher is being investigated for allegedly punching a Pit River Tribe first grader at a school in Northern California.

A first grade teacher is being investigated for allegedly punching a Pit River Tribe first grader at a school in the same Northern California district where there have been multiple reports of institutional prejudice and bullying against Native students, including two racist notes that were posted on high school students’ lockers this March.

On September 24 at Fall River Elementary, Solfdo-o-dachi (Uchi) Gali Garcia said he was standing at his desk, putting papers away in his folder, when the teacher told all the students to sit down, said Morning Star Gali, Uchi’s mother and the Pit River Tribe’s Tribal Heritage and Preservation Officer.

When Uchi didn’t immediately sit down, the teacher came over to his desk, and punched him in the arm, Gali said.

Gali took the 38-pound Uchi to the Pit River Health Service, where doctors said he had a contusion on his arm, Gali said, and he struggled sleeping that night due to the pain.

“He was scared. He felt like he couldn’t tell anybody,” Gali said. “This isn’t boarding school days. There is already an investigation into problems at the school, and now a white teacher assaulted a Native child and they don’t seem to be taking action.”

Shasta County Sheriff Deputy Quentin Johnston said the department was investigating the incident, but couldn’t comment until the case was closed. They also have not released the name of the teacher.

Fall River Joint Unified School District administrators did not return calls requesting comment.

Gali was also dismayed when her son came home from school the next day to report that three deputies had taken him out of class, and two talked to him about “telling lies,” Gali said. The boy told Gali he asked for her, but the deputies told him it was a “private conversation,” Gali said.

“If he asked for me, and they didn’t call me, then that’s breaking the law,” Gali said. “I don’t want to believe my son was hit by a teacher, but his story isn’t changing.”

Marc Dadigan

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Solfdo-o-dachi Uchi) Gali Garcia, a first grade Pit River Tribal student, told his mother Morning Star Gali that he was punched in the arm September 24 by his teacher at Fall River Elementary in Northern California.

Sgt. Johnston said only one deputy went to the school to interview Uchi, and the other two were there on “other business.” He said the boy did not ask for his mother during the conversation.

The incident is the latest in a series of reports and complaints of systemic discrimination in Northern California school districts.

In March, two Native American students at Burney Junior-Senior High School received threatening notes that read “Watch Your Red-skinned Back” and “White Pride Bitch” left on their lockers. One of them may have been targeted in part because she was defending another younger Pit River boy who reportedly was being harassed, assaulted and called homophobic slurs due to his long hair.

RELATED: ‘Watch Your Red-skinned Back’: Racist Notes Surface in California Schools

RELATED: Lawsuit Against California Districts Allege Abuse of Native Students

In the months leading up to the notes, Pit River parents had been meeting to discuss racist bullying at the schools and the lack of response by school district administrators. They have since been in touch with California Indian Legal Services and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Gali said she felt school administrators similarly have tried to downplay her concerns about the alleged punch, even though she said they told her they were conducting their own investigation.

In the week prior to the incident, she’d had her request to transfer Uchi to another class denied. She said Uchi had loved kindergarten, but was constantly in trouble in this teacher’s class, once earning 10 discipline tickets in one day.

After Gali reported what her son said about the punch, school officials authorized the transfer to another class, she said.