In California, the Orinda Union School District took what many are saying were extreme measures to bar a young Latina girl from attending the elementary school in the affluent community in which she lives.
Maria, 2nd-grader Vivian’s mother, is the live-in nanny for working mother Miriam Storch who has a one-year-old son, according to Matthias Gafni of the Contra Costa Times. Because Vivian and Maria live in the family’s home every weekday and night, Vivian was enrolled in the same Orinda school from which Mrs. Storch had graduated. On the weekends, Vivian and Maria visit Vivian’s grandmother’s house in nearby Bay Point. However, earlier in November, the school hired a private investigator to determine whether Vivian actually lived at Storch’s house within the school district’s boundaries.
The investigator determined that she did not, and gave Maria until December 5 to remove herself daughter from the school.
Miriam Storch is angry over the district’s action. She says that Vivian and Maria are like part of her family and that they do live in the house. Storch said she resents that the district hired a private investigator rather than coming to her home to discuss the situation.
Storch was quick to send a three-page letter giving details about Vivian’s and Maria’s schedules. She explained that Vivian had her own bedroom and bath and that she attended Santa Maria Church in Orinda where she takes Communion classes. Storch included that Vivian attended gymnastics class and youth theater classes at the community center in Orinda. Since she had provided Maria’s lease/employee agreement, credit card statement, and pay stub which were required for registration, Storch firmly believed that everything was in order.
“We have no idea. I think they are accustomed to a traditional household,” Storch said. “Vivian’s situation is not traditional, and it piques their interest. I don’t play the race card lightly, but it’s painfully obvious (her school is) all Caucasians.”
Last year, the district, with four elementary schools and a middle school, counted less than 5% Hispanic students among its student population. Vivian’s school had less than 4%.
The school district’s attorney, Harold Freiman, said that establishing legitimate residency is crucial in order to balance individual’s rights and preserve district resources. It is true that Maria gets her mail at the Bay Point address, and, when the investigator, posing as an insurance adjuster, came to the Storch’s house, Maria told him she lived in Bay Point. Maria was attempting to disguise her true address because of a restraining order she has against Vivian’s estranged father.
Meanwhile, the district sent the Storches a caregiver affadavit so that they can claim to be Vivian’s caretakers, which may or may not help. Finally, a day after the story was reported by Matthias Gafni, writing for the Contra Costa Times on November 27, and after a wave of community outrage, Gafni reports that the district has allowed Vivian to remain in the Orinda school.
Floods of emails, calls, social media posts in defense of the family poured in. On Friday of last week the school sent an email to the Storches and said that Vivian could remain at her school if they would become her primary caregivers.
“Until I get a letter I’m not going to get too excited. I’m hopeful this is the end,” Storch said. “This entire investigation has been a colossal waste of district resources. If she qualified now, she qualified two months ago.” “It seems that the district carried out this investigation with the explicit intention of proving that Vivian lives somewhere else, rather than asking the plain and simple question, ‘Where does she live?’ and then gathering all the relevant information,” she said. “If they really were interested in answering that question, why did they never come to our home or talk to us?”