A Latino student sued two Escondido High School teachers Wednesday in federal court, accusing them of making racial slurs against him in front of his peers.
The suit alleges that Gerry Ferman and Robert McKinley, both social studies teachers, had called Robert Chavez a "wanna-be white boy" and "a coconut, white on the inside and brown on the outside" during class Nov. 27, 1989, when Chavez was not present.
"Robert's parents went to the school district and demanded an apology, and the district tried to laugh it off and deny it," said Terry Singleton, the attorney representing Chavez.
The suit asks for compensatory damages in excess of $10,000 for severe emotional distress and mental anguish, and for punitive damages against McKinley, Ferman and the Escondido Union High School District.
"We are asking for . . . punitive damages against the two individuals to make an example of them and to deter them from future misconduct," Singleton said.
The suit said that Chavez' parents, Robert and Anne Chavez, filed a complaint with the district in February, but the district rejected the complaint.
The suit names Escondido Union High School District as a defendant alleging that the district was aware of discriminatory conduct by Ferman and McKinley.
McKinley, 50, has taught in the district since 1969, and Ferman, 30, has been at Escondido High since 1985, said Dennis Flynn, deputy superintendent of personnel.
"From the standpoint of the school, the school did investigate the matter, and I suspect that they feel that what they did was right," Flynn said.
Flynn said no personnel matters regarding Ferman or McKinley have ever reached the district level.
Neither Ferman nor McKinley could be reached for comment. Chavez also could not be reached for comment, and his parents declined to discuss the matter Wednesday.
Chavez, 18, graduates today and plans to study education at San Diego State University in the fall.