Monday, November 24, 2003

The girl who tried to start a Caucasian Club at her California high school has abandoned the effort and transferred to another school, driven away, her parents say, by the harassment and name-calling she suffered from other students.

Lisa McClelland, 15, left Freedom High School in Oakley and began attending another secondary school in the Liberty Union High School District several weeks ago, said her mother, Debi Neely.

“She was getting a lot of flak from some of the kids at school, and she finally said, ‘Enough,’” Mrs. Neely said in a telephone interview. “She hasn’t changed her views, but she’s learned that everyone else has opinions, too.”

Lisa’s proposal never made it off the drawing board at Freedom, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t had an impact. The spunky, bespectacled freshman attracted international news coverage for her efforts, which translated into a burst of interest into the idea of Caucasian Clubs, said Lou Calabro, president of the European-American Issues Forum in San Bruno, Calif.

“She’s our hero,” said Mr. Calabro, who served as an unofficial adviser to Lisa after she contacted him. “We sent her $100 and told her we loved her. We wish her all the luck in the world. She’s got more courage than I do.”

Thanks to Lisa, he said, he has received e-mails from students at more than a dozen high schools and colleges asking how to form such organizations, which he said are designed to promote not racism, but an awareness of European culture and heritage.

“It’s so blatantly obvious that European-American students want to participate in the system,” Mr. Calabro said. “They want a seat at the table. They’re tired of being told they’re always the oppressor.”

He cited an e-mail he received from a student at the University of Western Ontario who said that Lisa had inspired her to start a Caucasian Club on campus.

“We recognize that Lisa’s original idea will contribute phenomenally to our revaluing our identity and re-address our relations with other races in a more positive way,” said the student, Lara Love.

In Northern California, the issue has surfaced at two high schools at least. In one case, the newly formed Caucasian Student Union at Piedmont High School had its charter revoked in September after one of the founders wore a Confederate flag belt buckle to a recruiting event.

Principal Randall Booker said the founders created “an intimidating atmosphere” that included using foul language, the Contra Costa Times reported.

In another episode, Mr. Calabro filed a discrimination complaint last month with the San Mateo Unified High School District about an incident at Mills High School in Millbrae, Calif. He said a student told him that a group of white students had tried to form a European-American Club last spring, but was discouraged by school officials.

A district official responded in a Nov. 12 letter saying that no administrator at Mills knew about such a request.

Lisa met with a cool reception from school administrators when she produced a petition with 250 signatures in support of a Caucasian Club in September.

Her principal gave her the go-ahead to move through the chartering process, but she was unable to find a faculty adviser, a requirement for forming a club.

Her mother said she warned Lisa that it would be difficult. “I tried to explain to her that it was a very touchy issue, but she just kept saying, ‘Why?’” Mrs. Neely said.

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