Oak Ridge High School Students Spearhead Effort to Remove Racist Language from Neighborhood Housing Documents

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EL DORADO HILLS — There is now a concerted effort to change racist language in neighborhood housing documents in El Dorado Hills — and it’s being spearheaded by Oak Ridge High School students.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

Liselotte Foster and her family were shocked at the language she was in “covenants, conditions and restrictions,” so-called CC&Rs, when she bought her Lakeridge neighborhood home.

While restricting home ownership to the “white Caucasian race” was outlawed by state laws long ago, changing the 60-year-old CC&Rs proved troubling for the El Dorado Hills Community Services District. It oversees 30 neighborhoods but has no authority to change their rules.

“So what we need now is 118 signatures…” said Steve Seely.

Seely is a government teacher at Oak Ridge High School. With the help of his students, he has taken on the challenge of getting valid signatures from property owners.

“I was like, really? That actually exists?” said student Jessyka Mitchell.

His sense of outrage is shared by his students who are offended by the language.

“I’ve heard stories of people not really wanting to live here because they don’t feel included, or their family doesn’t if they are multi-racial, and I don’t think any of us want to exclude someone,” Mitchell said.

“It’s something that needs to be brought to light and action needs to be taken,” said student Randeep Chandra.

But there was no clear procedure on how to validate signatures.

“It’s been very difficult for the residents of El Dorado Hills to figure out how to change the CC&Rs, a number of attempts have been made,” Seely said.

But after months of talking with lots of lawyers and government regulators, a plan was forged.

“As long as we have a notary to notarize the fact that you guys are involved in the signature taking, then we’re good to go,” Seely said.

Not lost on Seely is the fact that a hands on approach empowers students.

“This is definitely real world, wow, I actually need to do something now, I can actually do it,” Mitchell said.

Many residents and elected officials are on board, but that’s not to say the racist language is as good as gone. If they don’t get the required signatures during the May 7 FireSafe barbecue, they’ll go door to door. That could be a challenge, but people here say it’s worth the effort.

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