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A San Francisco first-grader was called the N-word for months. Now her parents are suing

Carol Fong, a principal at Ulloa Elementary School in the Outer Sunset for more than 20 years, was later removed for her own use of the N-word. | Courtesy KTSF

The parents of a former San Francisco public-school student sued district administrators over their alleged mishandling of their daughter’s bullying last school year, a monthslong pattern of abuse that included being called the N-word. 

A suit filed in federal court last week claims that while at Ulloa Elementary School in the Sunset District last school year, the then-first grader was allegedly called derogatory names and racial slurs by another student. The alleged bully also hit and spanked the student—while calling her fat, ugly and stupid—in the presence of other students and teachers. 

The unnamed student, who is Black, was 7 years old at the time. The abuse caused changes in behavior that resulted in her parents seeking a professional therapist.

Her parents said they informed the teacher in November 2021 of the bullying and their daughter’s behavioral changes. According to the suit, they again followed up with the principal in March 2022 to request an investigation. 

An investigation promised by Carol Fong, the principal in charge of Ulloa Elementary at the time, was not presented to the parents, although a safety plan was created in April 2022. The student’s parents said the school’s response was unsatisfactory, as it included their daughter thoroughly cleaning a classroom while the alleged bully got to play with other children during recess as usual. 

The student’s request to use a computer or make art as an alternative was rebuffed, according to the suit. The parents are seeking $3 million in damages from the San Francisco Unified School District for failing to take reasonable action.

Fong also had a documented use of a racial slur. She was removed from her position a year ago after repeatedly using the N-word to fifth-graders to address the slur’s use during a fight between students. Fong, who had been the school’s principal for two decades, had initially been placed on administrative leave but handled the bullying at the center of the lawsuit upon her return.

According to the lawsuit, Fong said she didn’t consider verbal bullying—even including the N-word—to be significant enough to report and told the parents of the alleged bully only about the physical elements of the abuse. This lack of documentation and response, the parents of the bullied child contend, is what enabled the repeated abuse of their 7-year-old. 

The child was clinically diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, body dysmorphia and depression as a result of the physical and emotional harassment, according to the suit. She continues to exhibit physical manifestations of emotional distress, loss of self-esteem and an inability to perform daily activities, and requires ongoing psychological treatment and counseling.

The school district and attorneys representing the parents did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.