After parents in the Mojave Unified School District reached out to the Dolores Huerta Foundation for help in addressing the racial disparities in school suspensions, Building Healthy Communities South Kern’s Kern Education Justice Collaborative partners began their work to find a solution to the extreme suspension and expulsion rates for students of color in the district. Outdated disciplinary practices remove students from the classroom and allow these same students to fall behind in school.

In a series of education justice op-eds in The Bakersfield Californian, Gerald Cantu, Education Policy Director at the Dolores Huerta Foundation, cites that students of color across Kern are pushed out of schools through disciplinary practices, as brought to light in recent the Kern High School District settlement. Mojave Unified School District has the highest rate of suspensions in the county, with approximately 41% of student body suspended between 2014 and 2015, the majority of whom were black. Despite being a minority in the district, black students were expelled two times more than their white and Latino counterparts.

BHC-SK asked Cantu to tell us how this campaign will look like in Mojave.

“As we begin our work in Mojave Unified, we intend to apply the lessons learned through our years-long efforts at Kern High School District, where we worked with parents to advocate for adoption and faithful implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and restorative justice practices, training on implicit bias, and a diverse staff representative of the student body,” Cantu states.

“We are training parents and residents to become leaders with the tools to advocate for discipline reforms at school board meetings and to run for school board. It’s going to mean progress towards the dismantling of the school-to-prison pipeline for students of color. Two school board trustees will be up for election in 2018, and we intend to hold candidate forums where parents and community members will have an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates.”

Read more from Gerald Cantu in The Bakersfield Californian here.

In October, the California Environmental Protection Agency approved a plan to enforce pesticide buffer zones statewide. Our partners say that while this is a great step forward there is still more work needed to protect our children.

The new regulations cover most school hours, but advocates say the rule doesn’t consider after school or weekend activities held at schools, or the fact that pesticide drift remains in school grounds and on top of classrooms long after spraying.

“We advocated for some stronger regulations because pesticide drift doesn’t stop after class is over. The rule to limit pesticide use near schools from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.window is an improvement, but still not good enough,” said Valerie Gorospe of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and a member of Californian’s for Pesticide Reform. “We plan to keep pushing for more protections going forward, but this is a step in the right direction.”

Read more from South Kern Sol here: Long Awaited Rule Limiting Pesticide Use Near Schools.