Community calls for discipline, diversity improvements at Kern High School District

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Two years since the Kern High School District settled a lawsuit over its lack of diversity, community members are still demanding more improvements.

In 2014, Sanders vs. KHSD initiated the call for change. Several local organizations and parents were behind the lawsuit.

According to attorneys, the District’s suspension rates were more than double the state average, and black and Latino students were punished at much higher rates than white students.

“There continues to be a really gross disparity in disciplinary actions that are taken against African American students,” said Cynthia Rice, the lead counsel in the lawsuit. “They’re three times as likely to be suspended. Eleven times more likely to be involuntarily transferred–which is really the equivalent of an expulsion.”

According to data gathered by Rice, from 2016 to 2017, about 10 percent of students suspended were white–while more than double, 23 percent, were black and nearly 65 percent were Latino.

In addition, the attorneys argued that the diversity of students at KHSD was not reflected in its staff.

“They don’t have teachers that reflect the number of African American students or Latino students. they don’t have administrators that are even close,” Rice said.

For example, while 62 percent of students are Latino, only 16 percent of the staff is.

In 2017 to 2018, there were more newly hired white teachers than all other races combined.

Ultimately, the district settled in 2017.

KHSD now requires all staff to be trained on implicit bias, and they hold community forums twice a year to hear from parents.

The District also promised to recognize Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as hire more teachers of color.

However, those are two areas attorneys say they’ve failed.

“There’s still a high rate of African American students that feel like their education environment is hostile. There’s still high suspension rates for certain racial populations, so there’s still more that can be done,” said Lyndsi Andreas with Greater Bakersfield Legal Aid.

In a statement, the District said, “The Kern High School District is very proud of the efforts around (positive behavior support) implementation and the effect these efforts have on student discipline.”

They invite the community to attend their forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 30 at West High School.

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