The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is deeply troubled by the circumstances and investigation surrounding the tragic death of Emilie Grace Olsen, a Chinese American student at Fairfield Middle School in Fairfield Township, Ohio.
Emilie is the adopted daughter from China of the Olsen family of the Cincinnati area. The school district has denied bullying was a factor in her death despite numerous emails which show her father reached out to the district for help to stop bullying against his daughter.
“The Fairfield City Schools have an obligation to explain their conclusion that Emilie was not bullied, just as they had an obligation to provide a safe environment for Emilie and all students,” said JACL in its statement.
“School bullying is an unfortunate reality. JACL is very concerned by the extent of bullying directed at Asian American students. A 2013 report titled One Step Forward, Half a Step Back, issued by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and The Sikh Coalition, found that 50% of Asian students report being racially harassed at their schools. The report also found that Asian students are bullied at a rate 20% higher than whites and 10% higher than other groups of color. Although the report focused on New York City schools, its implications may extend to all schools with Asian American student populations.
“The demographics of the Fairfield City Schools show a racial breakdown of 86.7% white, 9% black, and 1.6% Asian. Clearly, students of color can be made to feel isolated and vulnerable. There is a need for Fairfield administrators to reflect on Emilie’s tragic death in the context of policies and rules about bullying that are integrated into the culture of their schools, and programs about race, diversity, and multiculturalism that are embedded in a curriculum that reaches every student, teacher, and administrator.”
The school district has been under intense pressure over what many perceive to be an inadequate response to Emilie’s death and the warnings about bullying prior to her death.
The Journal News reports that tempers flared during a school board meeting last night.
“I can’t believe you guys would bury your head in the sand like that! Shame on you guys,” said Ray Schmitz, a father of two who yelled out from the audience.
Scmitz was asked to leave the meeting. You can watch the confrontation followed by an interview with him in the two videos below.