By Ja’Nell Gore, South Kern Sol

Every year, some local high schools have assemblies recognizing Cinco de Mayo – a holiday largely ignored in Mexico, but held up in America as a day to celebrate Mexican culture with piñatas, tacos and a lot of alcohol. Meanwhile, throughout the whole month of February, my high school has done nothing to commemorate Black History Month.

Schools should be doing something to show appreciation, or even just acknowledge the evolution of black history – but at Bakersfield High School, nothing like that happened last month.

I would have loved to attend an assembly where they focused on my culture and history, opening the eyes of kids who know little about it.

And this desire of mine isn’t uncalled for, especially in a district that has acknowledged it engaged in a years-long practice of disproportionately suspending and expelling minority students, including African Americans. The district was sued, settling the lawsuit last year for more than $670,000. Among the settlement terms? The district must recognize Black History Month and allow students to celebrate.

Instead of taking initiative and organizing such a celebration, they are leaving it up to students. Considering that most students have never planned a school event (or don’t even know they have the option) why would they ‘leave it to the kids’?

Building Healthy Communities Kern in partnership with South Kern Sol youth media, have launched a new youth-produced webcast. “In the 661” will present stories, current events and good work happening in the community- all through a lens of health and racial equity.The show not only gives youth the opportunity to learn about what it takes to produce a video segment, but it also gives young journalists the opportunity to lift up issues that matter to them and might otherwise go untold.

There’s a lot of good work happening across the community, but rarely do organizations or residents who are working to improve community health have the opportunity to amplify their voice via mainstream media.

This show gives residents and organizations the opportunity to examine health in interesting and innovative ways. Health doesn’t only happen in a doctor’s office. Health happens where we work live and play. Health happens when people tap into their power, work together and change the odds in their neighborhoods.

The show will be aired weekly on “In the 661’s” Facebook page and will be shared widely on Building Healthy Communities Kern’s website and social media platforms.

The new show is produced by South Kern Sol youth reporters, Alejandra Alberto, Dean Welliver, Marilu Cisneros, and Veronica Morley and hosted by former KGET news anchor, Kiyoshi Tomono.

By Dean Welliver, South Kern Sol

The Third Annual LGBTQ Youth Summit hosted by the Kern County LGBTQ Youth Roundtable was held this past Saturday at Cal State Bakersfield. The summit offered middle school and high school aged LGBTQ youth a space where they could be themselves without judgement, make new friends, and learn about the resources that are in the community to support them.

“The goal of the event is to bring the LGBTQ community of Kern County together and to ensure young people who identify as being part of the community do not feel isolated,” said Gloria Garcia, lead organizer of the event and LGBT Community Worker at California Rural Legal Assistance.

To Julian Melendez, a senior at Foothill High School, the LGBTQ Youth Summit provided an opportunity for LGBTQ youth to connect to their culture.

“It gives a lot of youth a lot of information that they didn’t receive in school and this way we interact with our own gay culture we are more in tuned especially because in Bakersfield there isn’t very much pride,” said Melendez.

Melendez also noted the importance of having an event like this in Bakersfield.

“I feel like it is important having it in Bakersfield because it does much to combat the conservative nature of Kern county and I feel like it raises lots of awareness for these types of issues,” Melendez said.

Read more from South Kern Sol here.

Parents, students, teachers, and community advocates were among the attendees who packed the Kern High School District (KHSD) board chambers on the evening of Jan. 30 for the district’s second community forum on school climate, a condition of the discrimination settlement agreement, which requires KHSD, among other things, to hold two community forums a year where administrators must present data related to suspensions, expulsions and involuntary transfers. The agreement also mandates that the district celebrate Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month and allow students to celebrate these events.

Sahar Durali, directing attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, which took part in the suit settlement answered a few questions about the progress the district has made with regard to school climate.

BHC-SK: This is the second KHSD community forum on school climate. In an over-arching sense, what progress has been made with regard to the lawsuit settlement? What needs to be improved?
SD: The district has made some progress with respect to reducing suspension, expulsion, and transfer numbers. However, the data released at the community forum demonstrates significant disparities still exist in discipline of students of color, especially African-American students. It appears the district has also moved forward with a more comprehensive implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), and more staff are being trained on PBIS, implicit bias, and social emotional learning concepts. However, KHSD board members have not been trained, and have not indicated whether or not they will participate in any trainings related to PBIS, implicit bias, and social emotional learning concepts.
The district should do more to reduce disparities in discipline. Additionally, during the forum it became evident that some schools still have alarmingly high suspension rates, especially for African-American students. Moreover, school climate surveys reveal that students of color feel especially racially harassed and isolated. The district should do more to address the racially hostile environment these students are facing.
BHC-SK: Now for some specifics with regard to the settlement: Why is KHSD not leading celebrations of Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, especially when these celebrations are so meaningful to create a healthy school climate?
 
SD: The District agreed to recognize Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month under the settlement. At the last two community forums, the District indicated it was recognizing these months by allowing students to celebrate them. Dr. Brenda Lewis [KHSD Assistant Superintendent of Instruction] also stated that the district had alerted administrators that they should permit students and student organizations to put on events. At no point did the district communicate that individual school sites or the District were leading their own events.
We believe this narrow interpretation of the settlement is at odds with the spirit of the agreement and the District’s stated commitment to improve school climate for African-American and Latino students. By putting the burden on student clubs and student organizations to put on celebratory events, the District is sending an explicit message that Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are not a priority and are not worthy of District resources and staff time. Additionally, based on the District’s communications, we suspect that at schools where student clubs are not active, and no student initiates celebrations, Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are simply not being commemorated. It is standard practice for schools statewide and nationwide to put on events during these cultural months, and a commitment to celebrating Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month could go a long way to build trust and repair relationships with the Latino and African-American communities.
BHC-SK: As part of the agreement, the school district is required to train teaching and non-teaching staff on implicit bias. During the forum an attendee asked whether the KHSD board would be required to get this training as well. Do you feel that training the school board is important? Why or why not?
SD: Training the school board on implicit bias would demonstrate to the community that the Kern High School District is engaging in self-reflection and taking a meaningful step forward to eliminate bias at the highest levels of leadership.
BHC-SK: The district has been successful at reducing expulsions and transfers rates, but we still see disparities when it comes to African-American students. What should KHSD do to address this?
 
SD: The settlement identifies the need to address racial disparities by requiring that the District address bias and implicit bias through training, review of policies and development of the behavior matrix. Rachel Godsil of the Perception Institute and Dr. Eddie Fergus were identified in the settlement agreement because of their expertise in this area, along with Dr. Nancy Dome. Their recommendations must be implemented by the District in a meaningful manner to make sure that these disparities do not continue.
BHC-SK: In a survey conducted by the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), the percentage of African-American students who felt isolated and/or harassed at school due to their race or ethnicity in the 60 days prior to taking the survey jumped from 16 percent in 2016-17 to 19 percent in 2017-18. Clearly, KHSD needs to improve how it treats African-American students. Any specific suggestions, even beyond the settlement?
 
SD: Under the Local Control Funding Formula, school districts must create specific goals for numerically significant student subgroups in their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). At the KHSD, African-American students are a numerically significant subgroup. The district could follow in the footsteps of other school districts to create more targeted, comprehensive programs that create supports specifically for African American students. Additionally, the district should work with its commissioned experts, Rachel Godsil of the Perception Institute and Nancy Dome of Epoch Education, to identify the root of the expressed isolation of African-American students, and to work to eliminate harassment of these students by other students and/or staff. Both Rachel Godsil and Nancy Dome are leading experts in addressing implicit bias and racially hostile educational environments and could work closely with the district to create solutions at all levels.
BHC-SK: KHSD is a diverse district. Results from the CHKS suggest that the administration and staff have not done enough to embrace that diversity and ensure that all students are valued for who they are and the rich personal and cultural experiences they bring to the district. The settlement agreement addresses the training that staff may need to address these issues. How can KHSD address these discipline disparities?
SD: One way that KHSD could probably address discipline disparities and create a more inviting school environment for African-American students and other students of color is to ensure school staff are representative of their student body. The district made a commitment to recruit and hire a diverse staff in both the settlement agreement and their LCAP, which is the document that lays out their priorities for each school year and the budget expenditures related to those priorities. In fact, the LCAP specifically created a goal for hiring teachers that reflect the student demographics. However, of the new hires for the 2017-18 school year, 62.6% were white, 26.3% were Latino, and 2.6% were African American. In comparison to the demographic makeup of the student body, which is approximately 22% white, 65% Latino, 5.9% African-American, 2.6% Asian, 1.3% Filipino, and 2% identified as another race, the District is falling drastically short of their goal!

Read more about KHSD’s Forum on School Climate from South Kern Sol here.

On Jan. 30, the Kern High School District (KHSD) will hold a community forum to update the public on student behavior and school climate. This is a great opportunity for parents, students and teachers to learn about what the district is doing to change its pattern of discriminatory discipline practices against Latino and black students.

“The presentation will include reports on fall 2017 semester data regarding suspensions, involuntary transfers, voluntary transfers based on a waiver of rights, expulsions, discipline and referral data, current school climate survey results, the status of the District’s Training Plan and staff development, and an overview of the KHSD policies, procedures and practices relating to Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS), Multi-Tiered System of Supports, student behavior expectations and discipline,” according to the district’s website.

As a result of the settlement, the district is required to hold two community forums a year to update and share data with the public on school climate, this will be the first meeting held this year.

The community forum will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the KHSD Board Room, 5801 Sundale Ave.

 

By Chyna Patz, South Kern Sol

West High School has a bullying problem.

Walk around West High any school day and you can find somebody on campus who has been personally affected by bullying, or knows a student who has. I have tested this, and found that every student I had spoken to, had been subjected to bullying, at least once at West.

There have even been times when I have had to watch a close friend get called names, just for being gay. All I could do was hold them and tell them it would be alright.

I’ve had friends physically hurt by bullies, to the point where they felt unsafe coming to school.

I’ve personally been shoved by bullies in hallways and made fun of. I know how other victims feel.

Report after report had been filed by victims,  but there was hardly any effort to change the culture until a student who felt their only option was suicide filed a complaint. That set in motion something that has been sorely needed — an anti-bullying assembly to be hosted Tuesday and Thursday.

Click here to read more from South Kern Sol. 

This story was also published in the Bakersfield Californian on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.  

Several health care facilities across Kern County are teaming up to hold enrollment events before the deadline on January 31 to help area residents navigate the process.

“We are coming together to provide community residents with an opportunity to find out about their health coverage options and to enroll into a qualified health plan before Open Enrollment ends,” Clinica Sierra Vista Chief Operating Officer Bill Phelps said.

Phelps added that interest is up this year compared to last year but does not have official numbers yet.

The community is invited to attend the next enrollment event, which will be held Saturday, January 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Valley Plaza Mall between Macy’s and JC Penney.

For more information call Clinica Sierra Vista at (661) 328-4245 or Omni Family Health at (661) 459-1900.

Click here for more information.

______________________

La fecha límite de la inscripción abierta es el 31 de enero

Varias instalaciones de atención médica por todo el condado de Kern se están reuniendo para celebrar eventos de inscripción antes de la fecha límite del 31 de enero para ayudar a los residentes del área a navegar el proceso.

“Nos estamos reuniendo para brindar a los residentes de la comunidad la oportunidad de conocer sus opciones de cobertura de salud e inscribirse en un plan de salud calificado antes de que finalice la inscripción abierta”, dijo el director de operaciones de Clínica Sierra Vista, Bill Phelps.
Phelps agregó que el interés aumentó este año en comparación con el año pasado, pero aún no tiene cifras oficiales.

La comunidad está invitada a asistir al próximo evento de inscripción que se llevará a cabo el sábado, 27 de enero de 10 a.m. a 3 p.m. en el Valley Plaza Mall, entre Macy’s y JC Penney.

Para obtener más información, llame a Clínica Sierra Vista al (661) 328-4245 o a Omni Family Health al (661) 459-1900.

Haga click aquí para descargar el volante.

 

Photo above: Jack Becker (Program Manager at Bike Arvin and Bike Bakersfield), Alex Gonzalez (Organizer at Faith in Kern), Bill Phelps (Chief of Program Services at Clinica Sierra Vista) and Elizabeth Martinez (Healthy Policy Organizer at the Dolores Huerta Foundation)
 
Building Healthy Communities South Kern partners attended the inaugural Cross-Collaboration Breakfast on October 20, spending the morning identifying the places Action Teams can support each other and increase their reach.

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.

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Committee for a Better Arvin, Comite Progreso de Lamont, and Center on Race Poverty and the Environment (CRPE) reached an agreement with Recology over the company’s new operation of Recology Blossom Valley Organics, a composting facility outside of Lamont.

“This agreement signifies a new beginning for the residents of Lamont and Arvin in terms public health and safety, and a partnership between Recology and the local community,” wrote CRPE in a press release.

The community agreement will ensure the operation is safe, protects public health, and also makes significant financial investments in the community.

“Recology has committed to installing an aeration system that will reduce pollution by at least 80 percent, this commitment was a driving factor for the community groups to enter into negotiations,” read the press release. “The goals of the agreement are to maintain an open line of communication with the nearby residents of Lamont, Weedpatch and Arvin, improve neighborhood safety and livability, and ensure a high quality of environmental standards are met.”

The history of relationships between economically disadvantaged communities and industrial corporations is often one of conflict. This win is an example of how corporations can work together with residents and why it’s important that corporations engage community residents into business processes.