A group of students and parents from the California High School cheer and stunt team are calling for San Ramon Valley schools Superintendent John Malloy to be fired for the way he and his administration handled a recent controversy over an unofficial squad mascot that went viral on social media, according to a new demand letter from their lawyers.
The families argue the second-year superintendent acted negligently and bullied the cheer team through comments and actions in the aftermath of an Instagram post calling out the team for allegedly having a Black mannequin head as a mascot -- a post the families claim was fabricated in revenge by an unidentified "disgruntled mother" of an African American student who didn't make the final roster.
After the "defamatory post caught fire," members of the predominately white cheer team "woke up to death threats, doxxing and accusations that they were racists and committed racist acts all over social media," attorney Karin M. Sweigart, of the San Francisco-based Dhillon Law Group, wrote in the demand letter issued Tuesday.
The attorney said the families informed school and district administrators about falsehoods in the viral post -- including that the team's actual mannequin was a tan head sold under the brand name "Karine," not a Black head called "Kareem" -- but to no avail.
"Despite being armed with this information, the Administration did the unthinkable," Sweigart wrote. "Superintendent Malloy -- without undertaking any investigation, whatsoever -- started to put out public statements and do media interviews on behalf of the District affirming the false and defamatory allegations in the Disgruntled Mother's post."
The effect was "a willful desire to scapegoat and destroy the reputation of innocent children," the attorney stated.
Malloy, who has been leading the San Ramon Valley Unified School District since the 2020-21 academic year, seemingly defended the district's handling of the situation, shrugged off the demand for his firing and hinted at upcoming policy changes in a statement Thursday.
"Creating safe schools that are welcoming and inclusive for all our students requires us to examine our practices of how we may -- even unintentionally -- have a harmful impact on others," Malloy stated. "In this specific situation, we know that members of the stunt team did not intend harm by using the unofficial mascot, and we also know they understood that they had to immediately discontinue this practice."
"As our Strategic Directions state, all students must feel safe and included in our schools. At this time, some of our students have shared that they don't feel that way. It is our job to educate, and we have a specific plan moving forward that will be shared at the Tuesday Board Meeting," the superintendent said, adding later:
"As to the demand to have me removed from this position, I do not take that personally. I understand that some people are angry, but we cannot let that deter us from continuing our important work to create safe and inclusive environments for all."
The cease-and-desist letter from the Dhillon firm demands Malloy's immediate termination, an open retraction of past public statements, an investigation into the matter, a public apology and security protection for the cheer team.
The letter called for a response to the demands from the district by 5 p.m. Thursday, and threatened that a lawsuit "is likely to ensue in this matter."