Settlement in Kern discrimination lawsuit calls for new school discipline policies

Under the terms of the settlement, the Kern High School District admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to develop new discipline policies under the guidance of experts on unconscious racial bias.

News Story (California)

Jane Meredith Adams
July 24, 2017

Tags: School-to-Prison Pipeline, Schools: Discipline

Organizations mentioned/involved: Equal Justice Society (Oakland), California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. (CRLA), Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance (GBLA)


The lawsuit alleged the district used “unnecessarily punitive measures when dealing with behavior issues” instead of training teachers in alternative methods of classroom management or investigating why students were misbehaving. Those punitive measures were applied particularly often to students of color, the lawsuit said. In 2015, Latino students comprised 64 percent of the student population, white students about 23 percent and black students about 6 percent.

“Racially biased discipline is often the result of unacknowledged stereotypes of Latino and black students that result in their being suspended and expelled in disproportionately higher numbers than their white counterparts,” said Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit in 2014.

“The settlement creates an accountable and enforceable structure for completely redoing the discipline matrix,” said Cynthia Rice, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, another group in the lawsuit. “More importantly, it allows for experts in implicit bias and cultural bias to inform the whole process.”