Santa Barbara-based organization Fair Education is gearing up for its ongoing lawsuit against Just Communities Central Coast, the Santa Barbara Unified School District, and Superintendent Cary Matsuoka.
Since the fall of last year, Fair Education, a non-profit corporation dedicated towards advocacy in schools, has pursued legal action against Just Communities, a non-profit organization which offers implicit bias training as part of its partnership with Santa Barbara Public Schools.
Just Communities has been working since 2005 to minimize the achievement gap between white students and students of color, providing many voluntary programs for parents and teachers in the Santa Barbara School District.
The case made against the organization states that the bias training causes discrimination against caucasians, males, and Christians. According to a court declaration by Kati Hedden, a former teacher for La Colina Junior High, the Just Community’s “programming is completely biased and one-sided, and does not allow any viewpoints to be expressed that run counter to what they are teaching.”
She goes on to state that “this is particularly problematic with respect to their programs directed at students, as students should be presented with differing and alternative viewpoints and not indoctrinated with one-sided programming that I believe is creating even further division amongst people of different backgrounds.”
Despite Fair Education’s case being dismissed earlier this year by a district court in Los Angeles, the organization has filed suit again to fight a $294,430 contract between the defendant and the school district.
To draw awareness to the upcoming hearing, members of Fair Education flooded a meeting of the Santa Barbara Unified School Board with their concerns. The declarations given by parent members of Fair Education outline specific instances of discrimination against their children.
“My son got punched because of his skin color. If he were black, you guys would have been running up a pole to CNN,” says Fair Education member Greg Hammel. “When all of that curriculum hits the ground with the kids, it is divisive and causes violence in your schools.”
Another parent, Jill Rivera, shared with the board her own son’s difficulties with the program. In an email sent to the board of education, Rivera quotes her son as saying, “Mom, for just a moment I truly felt like killing myself today.” The email also alleged that on the first day of the course her son came home crying, saying that “he hated being white.”
Along with the accusation that the program causes pervasive discrimination, one of the primary complaints by Fair Education is that the Just Community curriculum is not made available to the public.
During the board meeting, Rivera reprimanded the district, stating, “You guys have hired nonprofits that aren’t vetted, and our kids are subjected to these classes, and we can’t see the curriculum.”
Jarrod Schwartz, executive director of Just Communities, stated that “we stand by our belief that our work does not discriminate against any group of people.”
The hearing for the Fair Education lawsuit took place yesterday.