Palo Alto students discuss racial profiling

Some teachers, students are well aware of the topic and see the Nov. 9 march as a beginning of dialogue

For Palo Alto students, teachers and youth leaders who participated in the march against racial profiling on Nov. 9, the event represented a positive beginning of a community effort to combat racism.

Some students and teachers at Palo Alto High School are engaged in dialogue about racial topics with the hope of dispelling stereotypes and misconceptions. "Living skills" teacher Letitia Burton said she is open to talking about racial issues with her students.

Burton participated in the march. She marched for her students, who tell her stories about the police pulling them over for no reason, she said.

She marched as a teacher who feels it is her role to voice injustice and to teach her students to do the same, and as a black woman, who experienced racial profiling at Stanford Shopping Center -- where a clerk followed and watched her suspiciously instead of assisting her.

Burton plans to discuss racial profiling and other social-justice issues with her class.\

"I think that for the average white Palo Alto student, the racial-profiling issue is not on their radar. They hear about it but don't experience it," she said.

She also hopes to have a police officer visit her class to discuss the topic.

"It would be great if the police did more for community outreach," Burton said. "There should be dialog between groups of youth and the police. I think youth need to understand what it means to be a police officer. ... I think the police need to hear what youth need to say and what it feels like to be questioned when they're not doing anything wrong."

Paly senior Kevin Ward also participated in the march. He was well aware that the march was in response to Police Chief Lynne Johnson's controversial instruction that officers question people of color if they match other descriptions of robbers involved in recent crimes.

"I found it ironic that many people who live in Palo Alto don't know what their own police chief is saying," Kevin said. "I wish people who think that minorities just keep complaining would actually come out and listen. It's not just minorities making statements."

Kevin said the march was really eye-opening.

"It was great to see the community," he said. "We started out in East Palo Alto and saw more people come out when we marched through Palo Alto."

Five days after the march, Kevin and some of his classmates in Youth Community Services, a nonprofit organization working to bridge the gap between East Palo Alto and Palo Alto, put on a multicultural fair in celebration of diversity at Mitchell Park Main Hall.

The fair focused on Cesar Chavez's principle of honoring all people.

Kevin saw the event as a way to create consciousness within the community.

"One way to combat the racial-profiling issue is awareness and getting people to know their neighbors before they make judgments," he said.

While some students are very aware of the racial topic, Gunn High School senior Nidia Morales said many students don't discuss it.

"Most people aren't talking about it. Usually minorities are talking about it. I only hear them talking about it when they think they are being pulled over because of their race.

"They feel that they are asked a lot of questions because they are minorities, not because they are actually doing something wrong."

Staff Writer Emilie Doolittle can be e-mailed at


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Posted by lesley
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2008 at 10:37 am

All I can say is, I am SO glad I no longer live in Palo Alto.
You guys are ridiculous. HOW do you expect your police to do their jobs? God help you in the future as you put more and more restrictions on these people who protect you. Just say NO to political correctness, that's my motto this year.
seriously. How about marching for the rights of those Mormons and Christians being Harassed by militant gays in your state? Oh that's right, THAT'S not a hate crime.
THROWING their tantrum because they lost in a VOTE, the voice of the people? Now they want to overturn the Constitution.
You fools. HOW about protesting your governor encouraging them to overturn the VOTE of the PEOPLE in the courts? Holy cow what are they teaching in your schools? Wake up kids.
You lefties make me puke.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 20, 2008 at 11:19 am

I would much rather see time spent teaching the kids from Palo Alto as well as EPA to stay away from crime and the dangers thereof of mixing with the wrong crowd, the dangers of drugs, gangs, and the benefits of living a positive life with positive recreation and positive role models in their lives.

We are a very diversified school district and there is no such thing as a typical Palo Alto teenager because there are so many subgroups. Rather than discussing racial profiling or any type of ethnic stereotyping, I would much rather see keeping all the kids away from crime, gangs and drugs.

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Posted by Victor
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 20, 2008 at 11:25 am

Just curious, were the police invited to attend the class and offer their perspective. Misconceptions can work both ways.

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Posted by political_correctness_doesnt_make_sense
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 20, 2008 at 11:46 am

I'm a parent of a teen as well and I totally agree with "Parent", political correctness doesn't make much sense. Time and engergy should be spent on more useful things.

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Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2008 at 11:52 am

I have had kids at Paly High for about 13 years almost continously. I was always pleased with how little racism they experienced there.

It's not a huge problem at Paly to be of a different race. It IS a SIN to be conservative. Many of the students espouse the left wing ideals of the parents without enough life experience and no real understanding of what they are actually talking about.

More conservative students, a definite minority themselves, are mercilessly attacked. Students jeer at them in class and tear at them with sneering vitriolic rants. Most of the conservative kids are better educated on their topics because they have to be by necessity. They have to have their facts in order as a defense when not only the other students go after them, but the teachers as well.

Hell, I have been attacked and namecalled on HERE when stating my more conservative views. I am talking serious vulgarity and invectives, not adjectives merely describing their points of view.

A newstory here a few years ago reported how a student of a different race from a different country wrote a paper about how he had not encountered as much racism as he was led to expect he would. That he had found much kindness, acceptance and good fortune in America and here, in the Bay Area. For this point of view, he encountered his first predjuduice. The left wing Professor FLUNKED him. How DARE he say that many are not as racist as the Professor was teaching?

I know there are racists out there. I also know that EVERY race practices some form of racism. That doesn't make it acceptable, it means we should be aware. I am disappointed in Ms. Burton for continuing to inflame the agitators when perhaps a better dialogue could be held about more constructive ways to be more positive and supportive of one another in our communities instead of having another racial pity party.

Regardless of how the Chief said it, and again let he who has not ever misspoke step forward, three persons of color have been arrested for these crimes. The descriptions were accurate and aided in the arrest of these people.

I can't help but wonder if Ms. Burton has ever stepped forward to defend a student who has different beliefs, not because they were a different color?

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Posted by lesley from colorado
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2008 at 12:40 pm

well said, youshouldknow!
Sad but true. The secularizing of America goes hand in hand with the brainwashing atheistic America-bashing liberalizing agenda of the far left. Schools, colleges--try getting hired if you're a conservative. Want to teach Intelligent design vs darwinism? -despite it's growing support in the scientific community, you will be blackballed. Fired etc.
In 2005 a Washington post survey found 72% of college professors are LIBERALS, even those that teach religion, how curious, Considering 51% said they rarely, or never attend churches, synagogues etc. Why their interest in something they don't believe in? I'm sure the stats are worse now, just three years later.
Bottom line about liberal hypocrisy: they pull out their ETHICS when somebody like Senator Stevens is caught getting monetary gifts from corporations; (liberal outrage!) but quickly stow it when one of us utters these four words: Kennedy Lied. Mary Jo died. Rebels without a clue.
They are selfish, hate the Constitution, hell- they hate their own country for the most part and that rhetoric is getting old.WHAT country is more GENEROUS to the world than America? I defy anyone to challenge that.
The good news is the LIBERAL fringe is STILL the liberal fringe and not by any means a majority of voters in America, it's just that conservatives have allowed themselves to be cowed by liberals, in efforts to be good Christians, good citizens. I read recently in fact America is a majority of right of center, and liberals are 15% of the population. However while we fell asleep at the wheel they took charge of our education system, that's the big crime.
Remember-56 million people we know of did not vote for the liberal candidate and the majority of the 63 million who DID bought the BS that he was a Democrat.
The other crime? LIBERALS are ruining our great cities like Palo Alto, San Francisco, even my Colorado Springs charming downtown! They are taking our nicest coastal cities, our most charming small towns and it's time to stop their insanity.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 20, 2008 at 1:03 pm

I also agree that it isn't racism that is a problem in Paly but a tendency towards non-acceptance of values and opinions. I had one student at Paly during the last presidential election and one for this election. The abuse both of them got from students and staff alike for their republican views were completely unacceptable and as for the views against prop 8, that was absolutely uncomprehensible.

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Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2008 at 1:07 pm

No Country For Old Men?

No Country for Conservatives.

Not racists. Not bigots. Not 'haters'. Not religious zealots.


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Posted by Fed up
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2008 at 3:08 pm

I second Lesley's comment on the whole situation. Funny how folks seem to forget that police officers patrol day and night in order to ensure EVERYONE'S matter what race you are. Sure, the Chief screwed up, but NO ONE is perfect. Therefore, why don't the whiners of Palo Alto do away with all this non-sense and put your time and energy into something more positive.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Criminal behavior is NOT an unique Black characteristic, and any attempt to equate being anti-crime with being anti-Black is a slur on the character of the vast majority of productive, law abiding Blacks.

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Posted by KTG
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Lesley! I thank you for your post. I think you posted a few weeks ago and I demanded you move back here and support the intelligent people of this lame town. It really IS a ridiculous place. I live here silently because the schools have lots of money in comparison to neighboring areas and I send my kids there. I'm secretly using the Liberal hippies for their trust fund money that they throw at the schools. It's the only way I can justify in my head that I'm living in this crackpot town.

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Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2008 at 7:07 pm

KTG? You and me both. And to think that I actually used to encourage Lesley to come back to Palo Alto.

If you can teach the kids at home how to see past the liberal agenda,the rest of the education they receive is superior to most.

Just keep your head down and stay under the Cone of Silence and you'll be fine.

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Posted by KTG
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2008 at 8:21 pm

They try to indoctrinate the kids in the schools. It's SICK. The Godless, babykilling Liberal kooks here think they are above everyone & intelligent. They are so elitist. It's so funny to watch. It is the most ignorant way of life, ever. If they start talking about racial profiling at my Daughters school, I will file a legal complaint that my tax dollars are being misused.

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Posted by KTG
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2008 at 8:25 pm

I didn't know there were Conservatives in Palo Alto!!! I wish I knew your email or something so we could talk. I feel sooooo isolated here. I don't know ANYONE here that is not total left wing.

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Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Ktg? I know of three households at least....and I had an amazing talk on Election day with the local head of the Republican party, nice guy. A talk that in reality reflects nothing of what you can well imagine the leftys would 'assume'.  We are a more balanced people.
You can email me at <> and take it from there... 

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Posted by Police Chief Resigns
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 21, 2008 at 5:40 am

There are definitely two sides to this story. Lynn Johnson is just as much a victim of this vilification. I hope you are all happy now she has been forced to resign.

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Posted by Big Al
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 10:16 am

Pleased as punch

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Posted by Mo
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2008 at 10:57 am

So where is the discussion on "racial profiling"?

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Posted by KTG
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2008 at 11:17 am

thanks YouShouldKnow. I'll send a message a bit later. I agree that we are more reasonable. I can deal with moderate ideals but the radical nature of the people here is insanity.

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Posted by lmao
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2008 at 6:50 pm

Political correctness stifles law enforcement from doing their jobs!

What enforcement will only be able to profile a suspected criminal if it complies with Government Codes §§11135-11139 prohibiting discrimination based on ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, color, or physical or mental disability.

Can you imagine watching the media reporting: "Two suspects were seen robbing a bank in Palo Alto on Middlefield. We cannot report to you a complete description of the suspects at large since it may violate the Government Codes on Discrimination.

The media may be next...stifling the media (hmm, who could image?)


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Posted by Glad to be here
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Lesley said: You lefties make me puke.

I am so glad you are puking elsewhere. Thank you for leaving. You obviously are happy there, puking and all. I too am "so happy you left. Marching for rights of Mormons? That'll be the day.

This is a vibrant, intellectual town with people of open minds and exchange of ideas. It isn't hard to like it, but obviously some don't. It isn't for everyone. Lesley, we expect the police to do their job just like they do, but without racial profiling. That's a simple, just and not too complex thing to do. I look forward to it and I am sure it will ensue as we move forward.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 23, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Do conservatives ever quit with the poor-me victim stuff? Damn, the reeking resentment of intellectuals, the grandstanding, the self-righteousness.

I think my favorite is the conservative who sends his/her kids to PA schools because they have more money thanks to rich liberals. Uh, yeah, it's that support-your-public-schools thing that conservatives hate--unless it's their kids.

Lesley, all the way in Colorado and you can't stop thinking about us? What stinging rejection happened--priced out of the district? Wrong start-up? Take a deep breath and attend to the parts of Colorado that are still red.

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Posted by mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Ohlone Par,

Do you consider yourself an intellectual?

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Posted by eve
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 23, 2009 at 2:12 pm

dumb ppl.

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Posted by eve
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 23, 2009 at 2:14 pm

hi luly

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Posted by Semi Auto Sam
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2013 at 7:35 pm

How about discussing how whites are victims of racism. But then again white are the only ones capable of racism in this society

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Posted by Wang Chung
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 28, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Palo Alto is Racist Place. White man smell of rotten milk, white kid make china kid dumb.

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Posted by Soul Brother
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2013 at 9:13 pm

^In all fairness "Palo Alto WAS Racist Place" after all; the equal opportunity housing act was created after PA realtors would only sell houses in blacks in EPA even though they could afford and wanted to buy in PA. And the old Lucky's off the Embarcadero was refereed to as N***** Lucky's by older PA residents until it's demise

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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