Latino community leaders are calling for the ouster of the principal of Channel Islands High School, saying he unfairly tried to fire a top Latino administrator.
Earlier this week, activists demanded the removal of Principal Jim Nielsen in a four-page letter handed to the assistant superintendent of the Oxnard Union High School District.
They accuse Nielsen of civil rights violations and illegal acts under the state's education code for his treatment of students, teachers and an administrator.
They claim Nielsen tried to force out Assistant Principal Chris Gonzalezand threatened retaliation if he discussed the matter.
They further accuse Nielsen of violating free-speech rights of Latino students during a school rally and of unfairly punishing students who walked out of classes in protest of the passage of Proposition 227.
Nielsen said Friday he had seen a copy of the letter, but he refused to discuss its allegations.
"I have no comment," he said. "I am not willing to discuss the issues. These are personnel issues . . . You need to talk to the district office."
Reached Friday, Assistant Supt. Gary Davis confirmed he was handed the letter earlier this week. He said the allegations are being reviewed by his staff, and he declined to comment further.
"The contents of the letter, the allegations, deal with personnel matters so I am not able to comment," Davis said. "The course of action is yet to be determined."
Most of the complaints focus on Nielsen's alleged treatment of Gonzalez, who activists say was targeted for challenging Nielsen's discipline policies.
In addition, they contend the principal's "draconian" guidelines for administrators constitute an abuse of power.
Francisco Dominguez executive director of El Concilio of Ventura County, was one of about 10 community leaders who signed the letter. He said their concerns center on Nielsen's treatment of Latino faculty and students.
"There are concerns about the principal and his lack of sensitivity to Latino students," said Dominguez, who is also a member of the Oxnard Elementary School District's board of education.
"There has been enough concern that members of the community have gotten together," he said. "I think the district should respond."
Among the chief concerns, Dominguez said, are reports that Nielsen has quashed efforts among students and educators to celebrate or recognize Latino cultural events and issues.
"Here you are dealing with a high school that is very diverse. This guy is not wanting those things around," Dominguez said.
Community leaders want Nielsen immediately replaced, and they want district leaders to look hard at anti-Latino incidents they say have gone unchecked at Channel Islands High School.
In a prepared statement, Gonzalez said he has filed a discrimination complaint based on numerous "culturally denigrating incidents," as well as his own run-ins with Nielsen.
"I tried very hard to be a team player," his statement begins.
"However, I could not, in good conscience, be a party to what I strongly believe to be violations of legal due process and constitutional rights against students, teachers and parents as well as blatant insensitivity towards and lack of respect for my culture."