In 2002 I worked for several months as a part time substitute clerk/typist for a school district. One day, at the school district office, a Hispanic couple came in to complain about an incident involving their son. I overheard what office staff said about their visit.

In a high school literature class, students were taking turns reading passages from a book but their son refused to read his part because it contained the N-word. Later, their son was threatened by black students because he had supposedly disrespected the book’s black author by not reading the passage. I don’t know how the situation was resolved.

On another assignment, at an elementary school, two front office clerks were discussing the performance of another clerk who had antagonized several parents, one of whom was even threatening to transfer her student to another school if she had to deal with that employee again.

When I expressed curiosity about the identity of this clerk, they pointed her out in a staff picture. She was the only black person in the photo. Two possible conclusions came to mind: All the complainers were racist, or the district could not fire the woman because it had to meet an affirmative action quota.

The incidents seemed to illustrate how California schools are affected by racial politics.