Bakersfield, CA – Please attribute the following statements on a settlement reached between Latino and Black students, community activist organizations and the Kern High School District to the following organizations: California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA), MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), Equal Justice Society, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc. (GBLA), and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, P.C. The settlement approved today with the Kern High School District (KHSD) Board of Trustees is the result of a three-year court battle to stop years of discriminatory discipline practices that deprived African American and Latino students of their right to an education.
“This settlement provides structure and accountability for addressing the discriminatory effects of the District’s past practices. The Plaintiffs and the community spent years before the lawsuit and nearly three years after it was filed working to have the District comply with their legal requirements to educate all students and to stop discriminating against the most vulnerable students. We are proud to have been at their side helping them obtain this settlement,” said Cynthia L. Rice, CRLA Director of Litigation and Training, “and CRLA will be right here during the next 3 years to make sure the terms of the settlement are met.”
“A primary purpose of the federal ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) is to eliminate achievement gaps,” said Kip Hustace, staff attorney at MALDEF. “To accomplish that goal, all educators—whether in school districts or county and state agencies—must focus on eliminating disparities that contribute to those gaps, especially discipline and transfer disparities. This settlement, with community members’ vigilance and participation, will help the Kern High School District to make good on California’s guarantee that all students will receive a high-quality education regardless of circumstance.”
“While nothing can ever make up for the trauma and struggles experienced by the parent and student plaintiffs, we believe this settlement will bring incredible improvements to the culture and environment of the Kern High School District and ensure future students do not experience the same discrimination within the District,” said Lyndsi Andreas, staff attorney at GBLA.
“Racially biased discipline is often the result of unacknowledged stereotypes of Latino and Black students that result in their being suspended and expelled in disproportionately higher numbers than their white counterparts. The district has retained a number of experts on how to lessen the negative impact of implicit bias, racial anxiety, and other mind science phenomena,” said Eva Paterson, President of the Equal Justice Society.
“This is a major first step, but it will take commitment and continuous effort on behalf of all of the parties involved to bring our students of color in KHSD to the highest level of quality education that all students deserve,” said Dolores Huerta, President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
“Faith In Kern looks forward to partnering with the KHSD on continuing to implement restorative justice practices, improving school climate and dismantling the school to prison pipeline,” said Joey Williams, Faith in Kern Chapter Director. “The settlement will help ensure that our children have access to colleges, universities, good jobs and a life of opportunity that God intended, not one dictated by divestment, discrimination and incarceration. We are excited about this settlement, but will be vigilant and active in ensuring all students receive an equitable education and these agreements are kept.”