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Home / News / Education / Hacienda Heights parents protest over conditions at elementary school

Hacienda Heights parents protest over conditions at elementary school

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Parents and students demand Hacienda La Puente Unified School District continue with expansion plans at Wedgeworth Elementary. | Photo by Alex Cordero / Hey SoCal

Parents say some school board members have made anti-Asian comments

Parents of children at Wedgeworth Elementary in Hacienda Heights gathered in protest of what they classify as unfair treatment from the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District (HLPUSD),  some of its board members and by other parents opposing the Wedgeworth School Expansion Project

Wedgeworth Elementary school provides dual-immersion learning in Mandarin and English and it is a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon and Gold Ribbon school for its academic achievements. The school is home to over 600 students, over 75 percent of Asian descent according to the California Department of Education 2020-21 year school enrollment report. Of 30 schools, Wedgeworth Elementary has the highest percentage of Asian student enrollment in the district. 

Wedgeworth parents say that for years they’ve asked the district for a safe and healthy learning environment for students.

“We are asking for basic, decent, and equal education needs that the school district has failed to provide for years to our children. Our kids and teachers were very excited when we learned the state had approved a budget to finally fix the school,” one parent said. 

Those participating in the protest asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from HLPUSD and from parents from other schools who they say have racially targeted them via social media and during school board meetings. Tensions have risen between parents who want the expansion project to proceed as previously planned and parents who question the project’s budget and are asking board members to re-evaluate the proposal and allocate those funds among other schools in the district.

Parents claim Wedgeworth is the only HLPUSD school that has no cafeteria or kitchen to provide proper meals for students — the entire school is composed of portable trailers, that there is a rodent and pest infestation problem and that the school has limited bathroom rest areas for children and staff. 

The Los Angeles County Board of Education has not answered request for comment on Wedgeworth’s current conditions.

HLPUSD released a public statement in a local news article which states in part:

“Our efforts to address the needs of Wedgeworth Elementary School families have driven an active community discussion. We welcome the input of all Hacienda La Puente students and families and community members and look forward to building consensus moving forward together.”  

During a Zoom meeting, a parent said their child suffered a urinary accident due to the lack of restrooms available for students. They said that parents often share stories of children suffering from urinary tract infections because of issues with restrooms. 

Wedgeworth Elementary Student joins protest against Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. | Photo by Alex Cordero / Hey SoCal

Parents are also demanding an investigation into HLPUSD board members Christine Salazar and Stephanie Serrano. They claim the two board members are putting school safety at risk and have made anti-Asian comments. 

We have contacted both board members for an opportunity to respond to the allegations. We are still awaiting a response from Serrano. Salazar did provide a response.

“I have always been aware of the fierce attacks made by this small group of parents, many of whom have never reached out and had real conversations with me. Many forget that I, too, am a Wedgeworth parent,” Salazar said. “I see the struggles not only WW students are facing but I also must recognize that students throughout the district are struggling too.

“I have seen the equity issue that exists in the district because I am a product of the district,” she continued. “Every child deserves the best education possible and the safest learning environments. That has always been my stance and will continue to be as we work towards making HLPUSD the best possible for all our 33 school sites.” 

The protest made its way from 4th District Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn’s Hacienda Heights field office to the HLPUSD on Monday morning.  Hahn supports the building of a new school, said Lauren Yokozimo, field deputy representative for Hahn.

Salazar is the co-founder of HLP Movement, a Facebook group which grew out of efforts to oppose the expansion project, where members have posted anti-Asian rhetoric, according to fliers composed by a group of parents at Wedgeworth. Salazar denies claims that she has personally posted any racist comments on the Facebook group and points out that all alleged comments of racism toward Asian people have all been made by others. 

“Not all of us believe that Communist China holds the best interest of our kids’ education,” one such post on the page partly read. “In fact, I oppose exposing our American children to ALL Communist countries traditions or culture. Not until they practice the same humanitarian values we believe in.”

Wedgeworth Elementary families walk to Hacienda La Puente Unified School District’s main office. | Photo by Alex Cordero / Hey SoCal
Parents from Wedgeworth Elementary organized a protest against Hacienda La Puente Unified School District and some of its recently elected board officials. | Photo by Alex Cordero / Hey SoCal

Some parents have also questioned Salazar’s integrity and are demanding an investigation because public records indicate that she is chief executive officer of the Hacienda Heights Little League, whose fields would be removed to construct permanent facilities. Parents worry this poses a conflict of interest as Salazar votes on Wedgeworth’s structural improvements. Parents called for HLPUSD to rebuke Salazar’s vote from any decision regarding the Wedgeworth expansion project until an investigation is conducted.

During a virtual board meeting, Salazar said she has been removed from any active role pertaining to HHLL since becoming a Board member.

HHLL Vice President Gabriela Navar confirmed that the league currently does not have a president. “As for her [Christine Salazar] still appearing as CEO on the State Secretary’s public information, this is due to me not filing any paperwork to make the change,” Navar said. “I honestly did not see it necessary to update the document to remove just her name since she resigned.”

Parents say they are tired of HLPUSD overlooking the students at Wedgworth.

“We are frustrated with the school district’s lack of action in providing a basic education environment for our children and the ongoing Asian hate rhetoric being constantly expressed by other parents and by board elected officials Christine Salazar and Stephanie Serrano,” one parent said. “No child should have to experience the level of unfair equity treatment our children at Wedgworth have been enduring for years. We have had enough. We want Wedgeworth to be the elementary school every child deserves regardless of race.” 

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