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A Riverside judge has thrown out most of a Matthew Gage Middle School student’s case alleging violations of civil code following an assignment to create a slave journal.

The assignment required students to create the character of an American slave before the Civil War, and then to write a journal about her character’s age, name, living condition, workday, method of resistance and expression of African traditions, according to the complaint.

During the 14-year-old Black plaintiff’s presentation of the journal, other students made racially discriminatory comments and gave the plaintiff the name Tyrone, the complaint says.


Student-constructed slave journals have been in California schools for at least 13 years.

An article from George Lucas’ Educational Foundation describes the project being conducted in Oakland and Claremont middle schools in 2010. KTLA reported the project in Hawthrone in 2014, and CBS reported on the project in Detroit in 2012. An NBC affiliate reported on a similar project in North Carolina in 2016, and Fox 13 Tampa Bay reported another similar project in Mississippi in 2021. A San Diego State University professor assigned her students the same report in 2022, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.

The student sued under six arguments, five of which were thrown out by Riverside Superior Judge Christopher Harmon.

Harmon found that her claim for violation of California’s civil right to an education free from intimidation based on her race failed because she did not sufficiently plead a threat of violence.

The violation of equal access claim was barred from precedent under the 2019 case Collins v. Thurmond.

The violation of mandatory statutory duties case failed because the plaintiff did not identify a person in the Riverside Unified School District she alleges violated their duty, and, more than that, a public entity is not liable for an injury unless provided by statute.

The intentional and unintentional infliction of emotional distress claims fail because the assignment, and the teacher’s failure to limit the other student’s remarks, did not rise to the required bar of extreme and outrageous conduct.

“The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was tasked with creating a slave journal, other students made racially discriminatory comments, and that she was subjected to a hostile learning environment. It is unclear how these allegations rise to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct,” Harmon ruled in his written decision.

Harmon left the plaintiff 20 days to amend and refile her complaint, and did not dismiss a claim for negligence.

Case No. CVRI2301666

Zulu Ali of the Law Offices of Zulu Ali and Associates, LLP and Mina Boules represent the plaintiff.

Milton Foster of Fagen Friedman and Fulfrost represents the school district.


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