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Plans to honor Alice Piper going forward

April 18, 2014

Big Pine School District Superintendent

The statue of Alice Piper will be unveiled on June 2, the 90th anniversary of the California Supreme Court case that carries her name, in front of the Big Pine High School.
Piper and six unnamed co-plaintiffs sued the Big Pine school district, which in the 1920s was not required to admit Native Americans. The court decided in Piper’s favor based on the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, providing equal rights and protection under the law. The case, while much less known than the civil rights cases that followed, was a precedent for the landmark Brown v Board of Education that eventually abolished school segregation. In the words of current Big Pine Unified School District Superintendent Pamela Jones, “this was a big deal.”
The Kickstarter.com month-long campaign launched in mid-February and running to March 16 fell short of the original goal of $50,000. However, with the addition of a $4,000 contribution voted on at the April 8 meeting of the Inyo County Office of Education Board of Trustees, the total funding, in hand, rose to $10,800.
Jones and the district have made the commitment to go ahead with the project. The full-size bronze statue is being made by Matt Glenn of Big Statues of Provo, Utah. The structure of the website provided that if the financial goal was not met, the contributions would not be collected. The goal for the Alice Piper campaign was set at $50,000, a total that would have paid for the statue, the setting on the high school lawn as well as tiered recognition of donors. The funds currently donated were made directly to the school district or through the district website’s PayPal link.
“Our Kickstarter campaign was building,” Jones told the board, “but the 30-day limit was probably not a good read for our community.” The Big Pine Board of Trustees has made the commitment to provide the approximately $6,000 funding necessary for the statue setting, Jones said.
While Kickstarter fell short, more than $15,000 was pledged, though not collected, Jones told the trustees. Those who pledged to the campaign can now donate directly to the district.
Jones has been working on this project since 2009, when Sage Romero dedicated his performance at the school’s 100th anniversary celebration to Alice Piper. Jones took the idea of honoring Piper to her school board and the Big Pine Tribal Council and the project began to slowly grow. Romero, with the help of 2013 Big Pine graduate Alicia Peterson and Shannon Romero, developed the promotional materials, including a video currently airing on YouTube and began an outreach program to both gain the necessary funding and educate area residents on the importance of Piper and the precedent she set for future generations.
Piper was denied admission to Big Pine High School based on a state law that gave districts the power to establish separate schools for Native American, as well as Asian children. In addition, the federal government had established schools specifically for Native Americans. While Big Pine did not have a separate district school, there was a federal school within the boundaries. In that case, the law stated that the high school was not required to admit Piper. According to Romero’s research, the curriculum in the federal schools prepared its students for manual labor or servant jobs and were in no way equal to the education available at Big Pine High School.
The court ruled that Piper be admitted to Big Pine High based on the state’s responsibility to provide quality education. Ironically, the decision was handed down on the same day the federal government granted citizenship to this country’s natives.
While exploring the past treatment of minorities is a painful journey, Piper and her story has been incorporated into Tim Steele’s high school history curriculum. The students have begun gathering information, both printed and that passed down from those who knew Piper and her family. In effect, Piper continues to give back to the community of Big Pine.

 

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