On the evening of January 30th, 2020, a passionate group of concerned community members marched through the streets of Bakersfield demanding more resources and support for Kern High School District (KHSD) students. At a rally following the March for Educational Justice, parents, guardians, students, and teachers advocated for more counseling services, cultural celebrations, and diverse teachers to a crowd of fifty supporters in front of West High School. The demonstration took place before the final mandatory KHSD Board of Trustees Community Report Back Meeting, which the KHSD has been required to hold twice a year to report their progress in accordance with the 2014 lawsuit settlement. This lawsuit determined that KHSD’s discriminatory discipline practices targeted black and brown students and deprived them of their right to an education.
The Kern Education Justice Collaborative (KEJC) and community members continue to demand that the KHSD faithfully implements the agreements of the settlement to create a positive school environment and improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for black and brown students.
To learn more about this story, read the article below.
Camila Chávez, daughter of civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, and niece of César Chávez, gave the keynote address.
“As you know, thousands of people around the state and country are honoring my uncle, César Chávez,” Camila Chávez said. “It’s telling, that on university campuses across the country, we honor a man who only had an eighth grade education.”
Chávez said schooling did not hold her uncle back from expanding his knowledge and reaching his dream of civil rights and activism for farmworkers.
“He was a self-taught individual,” Chávez said.
She outlined the “values and philosophies” of the farmworkers movement as set forth by Chávez and Huerta: the vow of poverty by living simply; nonviolence even when violence is inflicted upon you; and civic participation by exercising your right to vote.
Dr. Gerald Cantu, Civic Engagement Director at the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Lecturer in the Philosophy Department at Cal State University, Bakersfield responds.
Inga Barks’ recent column reads more like a social media rant rather than a well-documented and -researched newspaper essay. In falsely accusing the Dolores Huerta Foundation, her “source” turns out to be none other than Mike Williams and his Facebook posts.
Mr. Williams clearly wants to allow teachers to carry dangerous firearms in class, and he is the person who decided to use his power when he was the president of the KHSD Trustees to convene a special board meeting on Thursday, Nov. 17th at 2 p.m.—and he only gave the public 24-hour notice about the hearing. This is a fact and it isn’t just the Dolores Huerta Foundation that pointed out the rushed nature and the unusual hour of the meeting. Students, teachers and other members of the community raised their voices to protest alongside us.
The board passed a new firearms policy on only the first reading to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons at Kern high schools without any regulations. The timing was highly suspect, as Chad Vegas had already said his farewells at the last regular board meeting, and Joey O’Connell was to succeed him at the next regular board meeting in 2016. This gave Mr. Vegas a chance to vote for this dangerous policy. It was politics at its worst.
We expect more of our journalists and columnists than to substantiate their opinions through social media rants which reflect but one side of the issue. Had Barks investigated the views of Williams’ colleagues on the board, she would have discovered a totally different perspective.
What did the other trustees think about scheduling a special meeting to take a vote on such an important policy during an hour in which parents, students, and teachers would probably be at work? Trustee Jeff Flores found the meeting to be “outrageous” because trustees were going to vote outside of a regular meeting, which, given its recurring nature and hour of the day, allows for the maximization of public input.
Barks accuses the DHF of lying. As I was reading her article I was searching for the particular facts which she accused the Dolores Huerta Foundation of presenting as lies, the false statements we knew to be false but were intentionally misrepresenting as truths. My search was in vain. Instead of focusing on any particular facts, Barks focuses in on her “perception” of the facts rather than the facts themselves. The facts are as follows:
1. Williams called together a special board meeting under the said circumstances. The perception is that Trustees pushed the gun policy through during a meeting where the public would have minimal public input and effect.
2. Barks has not consistently attended board meetings. Had she been there,
she would have seen the overwhelming response from community members, parents, students, and teachers to the new firearms policies trustees passed in 2016.
3. We now have amassed 3,500 signatures from a diverse array of individuals throughout Kern County, who are demanding that KHSD Trustees repeal the new firearms policies.
We invite all residents in Kern County who disagree that teachers and parents should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus to sign our petition at tinyurl.com/stopKHSDguns
Members of the Dolores Huerta Foundation Monday protested an impending decision by the Kern High School District board of trustees that would allow employees to carry guns on campus.
The decision, which has been put off for months, would be an extension of an earlier decision this year allowing non-employee concealed carry weapon permit holders to bring their guns onto high school campuses.
A vote on the matter was not on the agenda Monday night.
Before Monday’s board meeting, Huerta said the decision works contrary to something the state of California and Gov. Jerry Brown have been working to establish: better school climate.
“I can’t think of anything less welcoming to students than having guns in classrooms,” Huerta said, calling on board members to rescind the policy they passed allowing non-employees to carry firearms on campus.
The $1 million insurance policy the district requires for non-employees to carry firearms is not enough, Huerta added.
“I don’t think KHSD needs any more lawsuits against them. You’ve already lost quite a lot,” Huerta said.
Others, including a KHSD counselor, said the district needs to focus more on educating kids and less on whether to allow guns in schools.
The Dolores Huerta Foundation’s Cultiva la Salud Program held its first meeting to work with Greenfield residents on creating a healthier community. The Greenfield general meeting hopes to shape a community plan to increase opportunities for physical activity and increase access to healthier foods for the community south of Bakersfield. Camila Chavez, DHF Executive Director said, “What we’re really trying to focus on are policy improvements. What can we do working with our local government, working with our local schools, to increase these opportunities? It’s not just about a family’s personal habits. It’s really, as a community, what are our options?” Many times it’s a question of available space for physical activity. The DHF wants to work with schools to make fields and playgrounds open during non school hours.
In School Expulsion Capital, Parents Learn About Rights
The Kern High School District in Kern County, California has been called the expulsion capital in the state. A year and a half after being sued for disciplining Latino and African-American students more harshly, the school government has shown numbers that speak to a reduction in suspensions and expulsions. However, local critics say the problems persist. Reporter Rubén Tapia follows up on this issue.