It’s one of the most pressing issues facing schools in Kern County – high expulsion rates.
On Friday, Senator Michael Rubio was in Bakersfield seeking more information about the problem.
Rubio met with local school district leaders at the Bakersfield City School District headquarters in east Bakersfield.
There he asked them a variety of questions on topics such as the reasons for expulsions, how many students are expelled in a given year, and what programs schools have in place to assist troubled students.
Rubio is somewhat well-versed in Kern schools since he is a Shafter High School graduate. He told attendees even he needed to get a better understanding of how expulsions work at various districts across the county.
Leaders from districts including Panama Buena Vista, Bakersfield City, and Arvin Union, among others, attended the roundtable discussion on the growing problem.
According to information from the Center for Public Integrity, Kern County’s expulsion rate was four times the state average and seven times the national average in the 2010-11 school year.
One of the major issues discussed was how expulsion numbers were collected and analyzed in Kern County. Some attendees brought up the idea that other counties have lower expulsion rates because they do not count cases in which a student is transferred to a different school within the same district.
Another concern addressed at the meeting was the disproportionate number of expulsions levied against minority students. According to the Center for Public Integrity’s research, black students, in particular, are more likely to be expelled than other students.
Also, the center concluded that the majority of students expelled from Kern schools were kicked out at their school district’s discretion and not because the district was forced to expel them.
For instance, while many schools have “zero tolerance” policies for offenses such as bringing a gun to school or selling drugs on campus, they allow themselves wiggle room when it comes to non-violent and non-drug-related offenses such as using foul language.
The data suggests there is much less wiggle room in Kern County.