Join the Kern Education Justice Collaborative on January 17  6 p.m. for a Community Forum regarding Kern High School District (KHSD) and learn how you can help ensure all students are treated fairly and get the education they deserve.

Come and learn about what the Kern High School District is doing regarding:

  • Positive Behavioral Intervention & Supports (PBIS)
  • Hiring and Training of Diverse Staff
  • School Climate

The meeting will be held at Millcreek Church, 1660 S St., Bakersfield, CA 93301. For more information, please call California Rural Legal Assistance at (661) 725-4330.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-Oct. 3 2018

MEDIA CONTACT:

Sarah Reyes
W: (559) 443-5306
C: (559) 470-4545 sreyes@calendow.org

Press Release

COMMON AND THE HOPE & REDEMPTION TOUR HIT THE ROAD AGAIN IN OCTOBER
The Tour includes a series of special live musical performances inside prisons along with community activationsthroughout California’s Central Valley

Oct. 2, 2018 — Los Angeles, CA — Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy and Grammy-winning artist, actor and activist Common will embark again on the Hope & Redemption Tour alongside his new nonprofit organization Imagine Justice. Imagine Justice’s Hope & Redemption Tour: Central Valley will take place from Oct. 10 – 13.

“This work and this Tour is deeply rooted in my love for people and my commitment to helping create a world where we all can thrive. I believe that all of us deserve the tools, access, resources and opportunities neededto navigate our lives and cultivate our best selves,” said Common.

Starting on Oct. 10, Common will visit and perform inside three different prisons in three days throughout California’s Central Valley to instill hope, love and humanity in the men and women who are incarcerated. In addition to the live concerts in various correctional facilities, Common will take part in a series of community events to engage, build with and inspire local communities and organizations, including a town hall with youthleaders in Bakersfield, a speaking engagement at Fresno City College and a #SchoolsNotPrisons event inMerced. The Tour will conclude on Oct. 13 with a special visit to a California Division of Juvenile Justice youth facility and a meeting in Stockton with Mayor Michael Tubbs and local community leaders.

“I’m very grateful to go on this journey again to instill hope in our brothers and sisters who are incarcerated and engage youth leaders in California as we go on Imagine Justice’s Hope & Redemption Tour: CentralValley,” said Common.

The Tour is supported by the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and The California Endowment’s Building HealthyCommunities initiative centered on community power building for health and racial justice in South Kern County, Fresno, Merced, Stockton and other communities throughout the state.

“We’re proud to join Common in lifting up the Central Valley’s youth leaders and their bold vision for a healthier and more just California,” said Robert K. Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment. “Weshare his commitment to justice, both in communities and inside prisons where hope lights the way toward apositive future.”

ABOUT THE HOPE & REDEMPTION TOUR Common dedicated countless hours advocating for criminal justice reform, engaging with local communities and instilling hope in the men and women inside prison as part of his Hope & Redemption Tour that started in 2017. On March 28-31, Common kicked off the Tour by playing three shows in three different prisons in four days. In August, Common hosted a special free community concert, Imagine Justice, on the grounds of the Capitol building in Sacramento with J. Cole, Andra Day, Ledisi, Goapele and more to advocate for criminal justice reform for an audience of over 25,000 people. The next day,Common joined multiple organizations in the State Capitol for several meetings with the governor, numerous caucuses and other legislators to discuss a number of bills that were all eventually signed into law in September. Following his visit to the State Capitol, Common traveled to Folsom State Prison and Lancaster State Prison to perform for the men in prison.

ABOUT IMAGINE JUSTICE Centered at the intersection of art and activism, Imagine Justice is dedicated to leveraging the power of art to advocate for communities around the country, to fight for justice and equalityand to stand united against injustice wherever it appears. Common’s newly founded Imagine Justice will focus on criminal justice reform, coalition/community building, immigration, bringing humanity to communities who are often dehumanized in society, civic engagement and leveraging the power of art to inspire and spark change. Follow Imagine Justice on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook.

ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA ENDOWMENT The California Endowment, a private statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to quality health care for underserved individuals andcommunities, and to provide fundamental affordable improvements in the health status of all Californians.Headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, The Endowment has regional offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno and San Diego, with program staff working throughout the state. The Endowment challenges theconventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people’s health.Through its Health Happens Here campaign and 10-year initiative for Building Healthy Communities, The Endowment is creating places where children are healthy, safe and ready to learn. At its core, The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools and with prevention. For moreinformation, visit The California Endowment’s homepage at www.calendow.org.

ABOUT ANTI-RECIDIVISM COALITION The mission of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) is to change lives and create safe, healthy communities by providing a support and advocacy network for, and comprised of, formerly incarcerated young men and women. To accomplish this mission, ARC advocates for fair policies in the juvenile and criminal justice systems and provides a supportive network and reentry services to formerlyincarcerated individuals. In addition to peer support, ARC offers wraparound services, including casemanagement, trauma counseling, housing, education and employment assistance, mentorship, and opportunities for civic engagement. Today, ARC serves more than 1000 formerly incarcerated men and women. For more information, see www.antirecidivism.org.

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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.

In the 661 is produced by South Kern Sol in partnership with Building Healthy Communities South Kern. The show is hosted by Kiyoshi Tomono and focuses on highlighting current events and good work happening in the community-all through a lens of health and racial equity.

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 show is produced by South Kern Sol youth producers, Alejandra Alberto, Dean Welliver, Marilu Cisneros, and Veronica Morley.

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.

The California Environmental Justice Alliance just released their 5th Environmental Justice Scorecard. The scorecard evaluates how “well California’s elected officials supported actions to address environmental issues that impact low-income communities and communities of color.”

Kern’s representatives all scored below 70 percent.

“There are a number of legislators who scored below 70 percent, but have significant environmental justice constituencies in their districts. These include: Assemblymembers Gray, Salas, Arambula and Cooper, all representing areas with high levels of pollution in the Central Valley,” according to the report.

Click here to download the full report.

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.