Monday, September 22, 2003

A 15-year-old girl’s effort to start a Caucasian Club at her California high school has won her some support — and an avalanche of anger.

Freshman Lisa McClelland gathered about 250 signatures from students and adults to start a club at Freedom High School in Oakley, Calif., that would focus attention on European heritage and history.

Her campaign has won the support of many students, not all of them white, who say such a group would be no different from the school’s other ethnic clubs, which include the Black Student Union, the Latinos Unidos and the ALOHA club for Asian-American students.

“I applaud Lisa McClelland. She should be allowed to be proud of her heritage and want to know more about it just like anyone else,” said one student on the high school’s e-mail forum. “What a bunch of hypocrites when people start using the word ‘racist.’ Why isn’t the Latino club racist? Or the Asian or African-American club?”

But the Caucasian Club has run into opposition from those who accuse the club of fueling racial tension.

Darnell Turner, vice president of the East County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he fears the club could morph into a white-supremacy group after Lisa graduates.

“I think she’s doing this for the right reasons, but what’s going to happen when she graduates? What’s it going to turn into?” said Mr. Turner, who added he was speaking for himself and not the NAACP.

He suggested that she change the name to the European-American Club so that the focus would be on heritage, not race.

Lou Calabro, president of the European-American Issues Forum, said he spoke with Lisa on Wednesday when she called to ask for advice.

Since then, he’s become an informal adviser for the would-be club. On Friday, he sent letters to two civil-rights organizations requesting an investigation of the school administration.

In the letters, he accused Principal Eric Volta of “resisting the formation of the club” because it “would upset the alleged current positive feelings at the school,” said Mr. Calabro in a letter to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

He cited e-mail he received from Lisa on Friday describing her difficulty in finding an adviser for the club and threats from other students. She also said that teachers are allowing students to place fliers around campus criticizing her campaign.

“She’s scared,” said Mr. Calabro, who said he receives three to five letters a month from students interested in starting such clubs. “One white football player called her [obscene epithets]. Others are calling her names. She’s only 15, so naturally she’s upset.”

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