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Union City Schools Settle Civil Rights Lawsuit

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(CBS)

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UNION CITY (CBS SF) — Oakland civil rights attorney Pamela Price said Thursday that the New Haven Unified School District in Union City has agreed to pay $725,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleged that school officials failed to protect black youths from attacks by a Latino gang.

However, school district spokesman Rick La Plante said, “There is no final settlement at the present time and to say so otherwise is premature.”

La Plante said final approval of the settlement is still pending and “is contingent upon several events taking place that have not yet occurred.”

But Price said U.S. District Court Judge Laurel Beeler approved the settlement at the conclusion of three settlement conference hearings and the district’s school board approved it Tuesday night.

Price said the settlement includes 13 remedial policies and programs that will be implemented by the school district to curb racial violence against black youths in its schools.

She said the settlement calls for the $725,000 to be split among 12 students from six families.

The students suffered anxiety, insomnia, depression, post- traumatic distress disorder and other problems, Price said.

“It completely disrupted their education and all but one of the students in the suit had to transfer to other schools” for their own protection, she said.

The suit alleged that the school district tolerated a pervasive pattern of racial violence and hate crimes directed at its black students, particularly crimes committed by the Decotos, a Latino gang.

Price said the suit’s goal was to force the district to take measures to protect black students and stop what she said were gang-inspired racially-motivated attacks in its schools.

Price said the attacks began on Dec. 21, 2007, when Vernon Eddins, a 14-year-old black youth, was fatally shot in front of Barnard-White Middle School on Whipple Road in Union City. She said it’s suspected that members of the Decoto gang killed Eddins but the case still hasn’t been solved.

La Plante said, “The decision to settle was made on the advice of counsel hired by the insurance company for the district and with the agreement of the district’s insurer” and no district funds are included in the settlement.

He said the settlement terms approved by the attorneys for the students and families “provide that the school district disputes and disagrees with the plaintiffs’ contentions and that the district contends that they are false.”

La Plante added, “The so-called remedial policies and programs referred to in the settlement are primarily a codification of long-standing efforts to address issues that pervade our society, in a district that has been proactive in these areas for many years.”

Price said the same plaintiffs have a similar lawsuit pending against the Union City Police Department alleging that it also hasn’t done enough to protect black youths.

But the Police Department said after the suit was filed that it has “a long-standing record of being responsive to supporting and defending the rights of all members of our diverse community.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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