KAUFMAN (CBSDFW.COM) – Seventeen-year-old Christian Herrera spends his days sitting at a kitchen table sprawled with schoolbooks.
“I want to be something in my life,” he said.
Home school, though, is the only type of education he can get since he was expelled from Kaufman High School.
A Kaufman Independent School District police report said Herrera showed up for class on Sept. 28 with a metal pipe and struck several students.
“I’m sorry, but it was my life,” said Herrera, who admits that he lashed out. He said, though, it was a desperate act of self-defense.
“There was no way to run or yell or ask for help, because we don’t have no protection in school,” he said.
Herrera and his friends said they’ve been bullied, beaten and threatened by other students at Kaufman High School for the past few years.
“They talk about Mexicans in school. They’re racist in school,” said Miguel Guerrero, 18, a friend of Herrera’s.
Just before Herrera was expelled for the assault, Guerrero said he was confronted away from school one night and beaten with a baseball bat. It’s one of the reasons Herrera said he felt threatened enough to carry a pipe for protection. Guerrero doesn’t go to school now either.
“I was scared of those guys who beat me up, so I drop out,” he said.
On the phone, Kaufman ISD superintendent Jim Phillips said there was no problem with racial tension in the schools. He refused to address any specific incidents involving students, saying he was compelled by law to protect their privacy.
Herrera’s recent expulsion has grabbed the attention of some community leaders, like business woman Carolyn Long, who employs Christian’s mother.
“We were all horrified at such a thing happening to Christian, because he’s such a good kid,” she said.
Long arranged for tutors to help Herrera keep up with school work, and she complained to the Hispanic organization, LULAC. This week, LULAC responded with a formal complaint to the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
“We don’t need this kind of environment, one where kids can’t even go to school,” said LULAC district director Beatrice Martinez. In its letter, LULAC is asking for an investigation into Christian’s case and the school district’s disciplinary action.
LULAC claims the district is discriminating by punishing Hispanic students, but not their bullies.
“We’re talking about two systems – one for them and one for Latinos,” Martinez said.
Herrera, meanwhile, is happy someone is finally listening. He said he is hopeful he can clear his name for that bright future he’s planning.