KHSD board accused of failing to protect Black and Brown students

April 9, 2022 /

The NAACP chapter in Bakersfield held a press conference Monday evening before the KHSD board meeting to address a student being called a racial slur and several other incidents in the Kern High School District. 

“We are coming before you today to speak about specific events that have taken place in the Kern High School District that we feel that the district as a whole have kind of dropped the ball in protecting the students and making the students as if they have a voice,” said Akadius Ashby, Vice President of the NAACP chapter in Bakersfield.

The incidents listed by the NAACP dating from February 2022 were; 

  • On February 22 a security guard kneeled on a Black student’s neck to restrain him at East High.
  • In February Kai Jackson was given a non re-elect based on retaliatory behavior and inconsistent evaluations from principal Roger Sanchez at Ridgeview. In March she was put on paid administrative leave despite students and parents asking for her to stay on campus.
  • In March KHSD attempted to falsely imprison students during a peaceful protest 
  • In March students from Ridgeview were threatened with suspension and expulsion after peacefully protesting
  • In March the security guard from East was transferred to Ridgeview to increase security. 
  • In March Ms. Farris at Centennial High School used the “N” word toward a student. 
  • Students at Centennial High were threatened with suspension and expulsion if they continued protesting Ms. Farris. 

Following the list of events the NAACP gave a list of demands:

  • Placing Ms. Farris on leave for causing a hostile environment and using a racial slur.
  • Centennial principal to apologize to the family and Black students for subjecting them to racial slurs and insensitivity.
  • Assistant principal and teacher at Centennial to be formally written up for their actions. 
  • For the superintendent to require district administrators to go through equity and inclusion training. 
  • The district should have a zero-tolerance policy for faculty using racial slurs and all staff counseled on the policy. 
  • Ms. Farris and assistant principal Mr. Bassillious are to be removed from Centennial.
  • The suspension of the older brother who was called a racial slur removed from his record 
  • Kai Jackson to be reinstated and allowed to teach under different leadership. 
  • Micheal, the security guard that kneeled on a student to be terminated for the assault of a student.  

Along with the demands, they also stressed the importance of representation in schools, an ongoing conversation in the district. 

“Individuals learn from individuals that look like them and have shared experiences as well. So, if these students don’t have individuals that can relate to them or don’t come from the same background, or don’t understand what it is that they go through in and outside the school it makes the learning environment a little more difficult,” said Ashby. 

During the board meeting, community members told stories of more issues they are facing in the district and what change they needed. 

One mother, Sy Roberts, spoke about her daughter, Treasure Herron, who was a cheerleader getting good grades and being involved in extracurricular activities on the Bakersfield High Campus. While at BHS two administrators made inappropriate comments about her body and the mother filed a complaint. 

The mother was told that the comments were found to be inappropriate and that the administrators were being reprimanded however, she was not told what the consequences were. Later on, her daughter got into a fight and was expelled despite it being her first fight. They believe this was out of retaliation for reporting the administrators. 

While the mother believes her daughter should have been suspended for a few days because she does not condone fighting, she does not think expulsion was right and wants her daughter back in school. 

“I don’t understand why my daughter is now going to community school one day out of the week. What is she supposed to do Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday?” said Roberts. 

Regarding the teacher from Centennial High School who called a student the “N” word, Jordyn Musser spoke about her experience protesting that teacher. 

When she went to the office to tell them that the teacher should not be allowed to call a student a racial slur, she reported that the administration told her that Eminem says it too. 

When the student continued to fight for the teacher to face consequences she was threatened with suspension and expulsion. 

“I feel threatened at my own school and it’s my senior year. I’m almost out of school and I feel like I am not allowed to speak up for myself,” said Musser.

Ashley De La Rosa the Education and Policy Director for the Dolores Huerta Foundation spoke about how the instances talked about were not new for the district. In 2017 the district was sued for expelling and suspending students at exceptionally high rates. 

“There is no denying that the Kern High School district is continuing its legacy of discriminatory policies and practices. They continue to feed into the school to prison pipeline,” said De La Rosa. 

More concern for Black and Brown students overall continued as Nadine Escalante explained when her daughter was marked absent when she did not turn in an assignment even though she was in class. When Escalante called the teacher she told her ‘that’s just how I do things’ Escalante told the teacher that she won’t do that with her child.

“Nothing has changed. We are still living in a culture of racism and basically treating our kids of color; our Black, our Brown, and our other color children like they are second-class citizens,” said Escalante. 

No decision was made by the board on any of the issues listed. The board stated that many of them are being investigated and moved on.

With the climate of the district, many Black students are not feeling heard and their parents are concerned about the safety of their children at school. Under those circumstances, Ashby reminded Black students that people are here for them and love them.

“Don’t give up. We are fighting for you. Keep on speaking up and speaking out fighting the good fight,” said Ashby. “Change, it will come but it will not happen in a day. There are individuals who genuinely care about you like myself, an educator in the Kern High School District.

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JaNell Gore

Ja'Nell Gore is a student at Cal State Bakersfield. In addition to writing for Kern Sol News she is a poet who loves any chance she has to perform and be with her community.