Updated as of 9/19/2022 at 2:30 p.m. ET
The stepfather of Abrianna Herrera, 12, alleges the Chowchilla Elementary School District has turned a blind eye to the racial harassment his step-daughter has experienced since she was 9 years old. After seven years of corresponding with school district staff, Abrianna’s stepfather was told he could no longer discuss the matter with them because he’s not her biological father.
However, he still has rights to be considered a legal guardian and parent. According to the California Department of Social Services, Mr. Gerald Hudson would count as a “de facto” parent. De facto parents have established residency with the child, fulfilled their physical and psychological needs and accepted the responsibilities as a parent. Hudson has been caring for Abrianna since she was 3 years old.
In 2020, Abrianna’s parents submitted a written consent form requesting Hudson be acknowledged as a legal guardian. However, Hudson said he was still met with resistance and began to see this as racial bias at play.
“At one point [Martin] and I were on decent terms. We were on pretty good terms for these seven years. Then, we got on bad terms when my baby girl got into the fourth grade - when the issue of her being mistreated came about and could possibly be viewed as racism,” said Hudson.
Former Superintendent Charles Martin wrote Abrianna’s mother, Joanna Abercrombie, claiming the district was not obligated to talk to Hudson via California Education Code 49061 which states Hudson must be either a “natural” parent, adopted parent or legal guardian.
More of Martin’s remarks to Ms. Abercrombie:
The District lacks information as to whether Abrianna’s biological parents are divorced or legally separated. If they are, and the biological father holds educational rights, then the father would have to give consent to release pupil records to you. If Abrianna’s biological parents were not married, and only her mother has legal custody, then she could give written consent for you to access Abrianna’s student records in the event she is absent and Abrianna resides with you.
However, since the District has been in contact with Abrianna’s mother, we have no reason to believe she is absent and unable to make educational decisions on behalf of her child.
For context, Hudson submitted a cease and desist order to the district after documenting countless racist incidents since 2019. The incidents cite Abrianna being called “s*** skin, “Oreo” and “N***er bitch.” Allegedly, one student told her she wished she was dead. Every time Hudson reported an incident, he was told by either the school principal or Martin the situation would be investigated. However, the behavior continued and they refused to speak to him further.
“I said, ‘Charles, I don’t want to call this racism at all.’ But it continued to keep happening and only to Abrianna and they continued to give the non-Black students, they continued to give their behavior a pass,” said Hudson.
The new superintendent, Douglas Collins, declined The Root’s request for comment but echoed the “biological father” issue as reason to decline the interview.
“In the situation which you are inquiring about, I can confirm that while we have offered to meet, and have worked vigilantly to confirm relationships, we have been unsuccessful,” said Collins. “I share this information because it will help you to understand the challenges that we are working with when it comes to sharing information. Specifically, in this case, I cannot confirm that you are receiving information from a person who has custodial rights.”
The Root is also awaiting comment from the California Department of Education regarding this policy.