khsd case

The Kern High School District acknowledged it had disproportionately expelled and suspended black and Latino students and agreed to pay $670,000 and strengthen training programs related to disciplinary practices in a settlement agreement finalized Monday.

The settlement of Sanders v. Kern High School District ends a 3-year-old lawsuit involving 20 plaintiffs, including the Dolores Huerta Foundation and about 14 parents who alleged minority students were being expelled at higher rates than anywhere else in the state.

KHSD reported more than 2,200 expulsions in 2009 — the highest of any district in the state, including those with higher enrollment. The expulsion rate of about 55 per 1,000 students was higher than the national average, which hovered around 1.5 per 1,000 students, according to the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Latino students were expelled at a rate 350 percent higher than white students. Black students were expelled at rates almost 600 percent higher than white students, the suit stated.

It has since dropped those rates, expelling fewer than 70 students in 2015, the latest year for which the California Department of Education has data. The high school district could not immediately provide updated data to The Californian Monday afternoon.

Despite acknowledging its own trend of disproportionate expulsion rates, KHSD said in a statement that it’s a nationwide trend, that it never violated any civil rights laws and would have “prevailed if this case continued.”

“Certainly, KHSD has not engaged in intentional systemic racist student discipline practices against African-American and Latino students,” the district said in a statement.

The agreement establishes, among other things, the following:

  • Attorney’s fees will be covered by about $600,000, and $70,000 will be split into $5,000 payments to plaintiffs for educational remediation.
  • KHSD must hire Jeffrey Sprague and Rachel Godsil, two Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports experts, to help the district train staff in PBIS. The two cost roughly $40,000 over three years.
  • Every staff member must be trained in PBIS over a years-long period.
  • KHSD must hold community forums regarding student behavior and school climate twice a year. Administrators must present data related to suspensions, involuntary and voluntary transfers, expulsions, discipline and referral data disaggregated by race, ethnicity and gender during those meetings.
  • Students cannot be expelled or involuntarily transferred for defiance.
  • The district must recognize Black History Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month and allow students to celebrate those events.

The agreement also establishes that the district must create guidelines for discipline so that all students are treated equally, said Sahar Durali, directing attorney of the California Rural Legal Assistance in Delano, which represented plaintiffs in the Sanders case.

She cautioned, however, that the terms of the agreement can only be enforced by a vigilant community.

“This is not over. We have to be at the community forums, we have to keep them accountable and make sure those things are being implemented the way they are supposed to be. The settlement is as strong as the community and the advocates who are going to enforce it,” Durali said.

“We think this is a really amazing step forward compared to what this district looked like a few years ago. We’re excited students aren’t going to get pushed out for trumped-up reasons and have a fair chance in a more supportive environment.”

KHSD Trustee Bryan Batey said he was glad the lawsuit was over, but that it should have never been filed. He said many of the remediations included in the settlement, including PBIS training, were already initiated.

“I’m disappointed they chose to use the court system to address something we had already been working on,” Batey said. “We weren’t given a chance to work through the issues.”

Attorneys fees cost the district more than $787,000, and the settlement agreement will not be covered by the district’s insurance company, according to information the district published on its website in anticipation of the settlement.

Continuing to try the case in court would not have been in the district’s best financial interest, the district stated.

“Every dollar spent fighting this lawsuit was taxpayer money that KHSD received as part of its federal and state-budgeted funds, which are meant to be spent on education,” the district stated on its website.

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

(17) comments


This lawsuit is a total joke!
If you have a predominate group at a school, it stands to reason that group is most likely to have higher numbers in all categories, including suspensions and expulsions. I'm sure those groups also had the highest grads at those schools also. This case should not have been that difficult to defend, had the administrators properly documented the students violations and the actions taken to correct said violations. The biggest losers are the kids because now they are running rampant, with even less skills and education upon graduation. Dolores Huerta in her infinite wisdom has caused greater setbacks in the minority community than good.


They could not defend because then there would be evidence presented that KHSD does indeed have a different set of disciplinary rules depending on the school. They may have a standard set of disciplinary guidelines but ultimately the principle can over ride any lower level discipline decision made by the deans or other school administration. This is factual and so my arguement that the parents that scream the loudest wins. They are spinning it as a settlement to midigate the costs. There is evidence to prove that in fact there is merit there this lawsuit. In the settlement we the tax payer will never know because those things will be quietly tucked away and hidden by this Administration and the School Board.


While it may be the case that two students, one White and the other Black, received different disciplinary actions, it is not stated in the complaint. All students, White, Black, Hispanic, or athlete, who steal should be given the same punishment. It makes no sense to make the students at a school that has a minority majority population put up with a thief because students at a school that has a majority White population have to put up with one. The safety and civil rights of law abiding students should be given priority over those of criminal students no matter the population of the school.

Martha Elias

"Concerned citizen" is right on. The issue wasn't that students should not be punished, the problem is that two students -one white, the other minority- committing the same offense were being disciplined differently with the white student just getting a "talk" or "detention" while minorities were suspended or expelled. I have witnessed this happening throughout the year working at different campuses. The main reason being indeed that white parents scream louder and often, while minority parents tend to take the school's word for it. Parent empowerment is key to police the district's promises. And the Board. Don't even get me started...


What about student athletes that get into trouble as well. How many get a pass by just a talk to keep them from missing games for serious offenses? Now this would not be a racial thing but simply just because they are starters. This happens at several of the more competitive schools. The punishment should be the same across the district.


This young man should never have been transferred to another school in the district. If he was guilty of theft, he should have been put in a facility for criminals. In settling this case, KHSD did not make schools in the district are not safer for law abiding students.


This settlement the KHSD vehemently denies civil rights violations. But based on more recent case actions against the district violating people's civil rights seems to be standard operating procedure for this district. Does not appear they have learned that there are repercussions for mismanagement of this district. After all it is not their money! The administration must be clearly lying to this current board is the only reason one can come up with as to why the board does not do anything to deal with the Administration. The school district is fully tax payer funded so they are obligated to operate within the scope of the law. It will be interesting to see how they try to brush under the carpet the most current litigation especially the lawsuit at BHS where the kid was injured. I suspect just like the Chicken Suit lawsuit they will lie through their teeth even while under oath. Loyalty is rewarded by this administration. Would be interesting to research prior lawsuit outcomes and those employed by the district that were called to testify under oath. What were their job titles then verses what they are currently. Is this not public information since their salaries are tax payer funded?


Why this school is suspending students without any reason?


The young man was accused of theft. Theft hardly qualifies as no reason.


I am disappointed that the District lacks the level of oversight necessary for their schools to be administered properly. Why does it take a lawsuit to force Schaefer and his minions to properly manage? What a waste of scarce tax dollars.


These clowns have drug this law suit out for years in a feeble attempt to defend against the inevitable all the while costing taxpayers. They've been jumping through their tails trying to implement PBIS, which is a joke, hiring intervention specialist and more mental health professionals to look like they're doing the right thing. The reality is they are idiots, horrible managers and do a terrible job of articulating the reasoning for students discipline . What the law suit fails to address is that fact that the number of expulsions from certain campuses occurred where blacks and latinos weren't minorities , such as West and South High, which would have been easily defended The reality is this is an administrative problem and toxic leadership , all the way up to Schaefer himself . They seriously need to infuse the KHSD with new leadership and a new board , bunch of corrupt clucks !!


PBIS may not work, but it is being forced upon districts.


Apparently there is no accountability by the Board of Directors. They believe what they are told by the Superintendents. Hence why the district will constantly have to pay out on lawsuits that simple transparency would have avoided.


How is allowing a thief to remain on campus better than getting rid of the thief?


Let's say for example this kid is a thief; Are their not kids on the NW side of town schools that kids have done much worse and were given in school discipline without being expelled? Could it be that the parents on the NW side scream the loudest and fight the discipline?


Both thieves should be sent to a facility for criminals. If this young man was a thief, as alleged, allowing him to stay on campus would have been irresponsible and would have made his fellow students less safe. Allowing thieves to stay on any campus, whether it is South or a school on the NW is irresponsible and puts other students at risk.


The fair and equitable discipline for all schools should be consistent and from what I read in this article that is why the district was sued.

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