Expert Hired By Kern High School District Finds Evidence of Bias Against African American Students; Supports Discrimination Claims in Lawsuit Filed by Civil Rights Law Firms
African American and Latino Plaintiffs suing Kern High School District and other state and county officials in a civil rights action were not surprised to hear that an expert, Dr. Jon Eyler, presented a report to the Kern High School District indicating that African American students are subject to double the rates of discipline as white students. The Discipline Analysis Report presented data about discipline and suspension rates Monday night at the Kern High School District board meeting.
Chad Vegas, KHSD Board Member President, was quoted on the Kern Golden Empire news website as saying, “It seems to be that it’s accurate that the black students are being disproportionately affected by student discipline. It also seems it’s accurate that’s a problem that we need to address.”
Dr. Eyler’s findings and Mr. Vegas’s quote support the claims in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Latino and African American students and parents in Kern County. Through the lawsuit, Plaintiffs are hoping to correct the school district’s current discipline practices, to eliminate the disproportionate suspensions of students of color, to foster a safe environment with effective discipline responses, and to ensure the rights of students to a quality education.
In May, Judge Eric Bradshaw of the Kern County Superior Court rejected the district’s motion to dismiss the case and ruled that the Latino and African American Plaintiffs can proceed with their equal protection and other anti-discrimination claims against the Kern High School District, the Kern County Office of Education, and the California Department of Education. The Court made clear that students have the right to advance their constitutional and statutory rights to equal and fair education Kern County.
The lawsuit seeks to show that African American and Latino students are being denied their fundamental right to an equal and adequate education, by being disciplined and involuntarily transferred out of their regular high schools and into county and district-run community or continuation schools. The report, commissioned by the Kern High School District and titled “The Discipline Analysis Report,” confirms that disparities in discipline continue and can be attributed to implicit bias.
The Kern High School District, located in California’s Central Valley, has a student population that is 62 percent Latino and 6.3 percent African American. Over the last five years, discriminatory school assignment policies have made it far more likely for Latino and African American students to be suspended, expelled, and assigned to alternative schools than the rest of the student population.
KHSD’s discipline and involuntary transfer policies have created a pattern that has been nationally studied and described as the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” – defined as the use of educational policies and practices that have the effect of pushing students, especially students of color and students with disabilities, out of schools and toward the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Additionally, those disciplined and transferred out of a general school setting are more likely to drop out; less likely to graduate on time, if at all; and less likely to attend or complete college or post-high school vocational training, a reality more accurately described as the “School-to-Nowhere Pipeline.”
“The report confirms what we are alleging in our lawsuit. We are looking forward to pursuing our strong case against the KHSD,” said Cynthia Rice, Director of Litigation, Advocacy and Training at the California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. “We hope that Dr. Eyler’s findings will serve as an impetus for meaningful discussions with the district about how to resolve these serious problems.”