EJS 20th Anniversary – Reflecting on 2017: Landmark Settlement with Kern High School District on Behalf of Black and Latino Students

EJS President Eva Paterson speaks at a press conference in July 2017 in Bakersfield, California, announcing a landmark settlement with the Kern High School District in our lawsuit to stop years of discriminatory discipline practices by the District that deprived African American and Latino students of their right to an education.

2020 is the 20th anniversary of the Equal Justice Society. Our celebration this year on September 17 will be virtual and we’re working on an exciting and engaging program including an oratorio by Marcus Shelby inspired by the courage of Harriet Tubman and by the two decades of EJS. Every week leading up to the celebration, we will highlight one year in our history.


This week we remember 2017, when EJS and a coalition of civil rights organizations achieved a landmark settlement in a court battle to stop years of discriminatory discipline practices that deprived African American and Latino students of their right to an education.

Kern County African American and Latino Students Achieve Victory in Landmark Settlement with Kern High School District – Latino and Black students enrolled in the Kern High School District, together with their parents and community activist organizations Dolores Huerta Foundation, National Brotherhood Association, and Faith in Kern, announced a historic settlement on July 26, 2017, in our challenge to discriminatory practices.

The plaintiffs were represented by a coalition of civil rights lawyers, including 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 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.

The settlement, the first of its kind in California, included an immediate change to Kern High School District discipline practices and an acknowledgment by the school district that students of color face higher rates of discipline than white students. KHSD agreed to implement major policy changes to reduce the disproportionate suspensions, expulsions and involuntary school transfers of African American and Latino students.

EJS at ‘Good Ally’ Strategic Engagement Conference – EJS participated in “How to Be a Good Ally: A Strategic Engagement Conference” on January 6, 2017, at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. EJS Legal Director Allison Elgart moderated a panel on voting rights. The conference brought together more than 1,000 participants in response to the post-election climate of rising hate, intimidation, and discrimination. The conference was organized by a team led by Kelly Dermody and Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, and Yolanda Jackson and the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Eva Paterson Joins Legal Advisory Board of Impeachment Campaign – Eva Paterson joined the Legal Advisory Board of the Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump Now, the national movement for an impeachment investigation of President Trump. The campaign, launched on Inauguration Day and led by two public interest organizations, Free Speech For People and RootsAction.org, called on Congress to start an investigation based on the President’s direct and ongoing violations of the two anti-corruption provisions of the US Constitution and based on the President’s apparent interference with a criminal investigation by his improper attempts to influence, and his ultimate firing of, FBI Director James Comey.

Resilience of Racism Conference – EJS hosted the Resilience of Racism Conference in June at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. The conference explored mind science concepts such as implicit bias and racial anxiety to better understand and ameliorate racism in all its manifestations.

Launch of National Implicit Bias Network – EJS launched the National Implicit Bias Network on June 1. The network aspires to be a leading resource and voice on implicit bias and the phenomenon’s interaction with structural racism. We will also address other mind science phenomenon including racial anxiety and stereotype threat. The Network will focus on implicit bias education outreach to allies in the progressive and the resistance communities to reduce structural race and gender barriers impeding progress of our movement. The Network had a founding membership of more than 40 attorneys, jurists, social scientists, scholars, and advocates.

Launch of ‘This Week in White Supremacy’ – On September 8, EJS launched “This Week in White Supremacy,” a new feature detailing actions and policies that further the cause of white supremacy as part of EJS’s fight against white supremacy. The weekly email grew from a suggestion by Susan Baronoff and Virg Dzurinko.

Daily Journal Op-Ed by Allison Elgart on Post-Election SCOTUS – EJS Legal Director Allison Elgart penned an op-ed in the Daily Journal legal newspaper shortly after the election. Allison shared her thoughts on how the President-Elect’s future Supreme Court nominee may impact issues before the Court, such as diversity in higher education.

EJS and 100+ Organizations Oppose Gorsuch for SCOTUS – EJS joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and a group of 115 national organizations in opposition to the confirmation of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

We welcome sponsorships to our 20th anniversary virtual celebration on September 17, 2020. The evening will include an oratorio by Marcus inspired by the courage of Harriet Tubman and by the two decades of EJS. Please contact Ginger Johnson at gjohnson@equaljusticesociety.org for more information. Thank you!

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