A group of Santa Barbara parents and teachers formed Fair Education Santa Barbara, and then filed a lawsuit against the Santa Barbara Unified School District and JUST Communities Central Coast. The group said the “anti-Caucasian, anti-Christian organization calling itself Just Communities Central Coast, Inc., and its’ willing enabler, SBUSD,” have employed and continue to employ policies and procedures for teaching SBUSD’s teachers and students that unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex and religion.
Fair Education Santa Barbara, which the Globe reported on in May, currently has approximately 300 members, many of whom have minor children in schools within the Santa Barbara Unified School District and are taxpayers within the district.
Attorney Eric Early said the lawsuit seeks to put a stop to a “creeping, social justice warrior, alt-left takeover of the Santa Barbara Unified School District.” Early says in the lawsuit that Santa Barbara Unified and Just Communities “are deeply conflicted, with numerous overlapping employees and board members – including school board members that voted to approve JCCC’s contract, who were themselves until very recently employees of JCCC. SBUSD did not let the JCCC contract for public bidding as required by California law – instead rubber stamping it over the objection of many, many parents and community members.”
Early recently filed eye-opening declarations by parents and teachers in the Superior Court. He explained the purpose of the lawsuit:
JCCC’s programming teaches, for example, that “racism” can only be perpetrated by “white people” and that “white people,” “males” and “Christian people” “target” “People of Color,” “females” and “All other [religions].” JCCC’s programming separates the participants in its school-based programs by race and requires the Caucasian group to sit in silence while the “People of Color” group recounts their past encounters with alleged racism. The Caucasian group is also required by JCCC (and thus it’s employer SBUSD as well) to affirm that they have received preferential treatment on the basis of their race and is precluded from offering any explanation, as this in and of itself would be “racist” and “collusion” against people of color.
The Caucasian group was also required to confirm or deny things such as whether they had ever been let off by the police or whether they had ever individually been accused of being “racist.”
Here are highlights from the Declarations.
Board Member Greg Gandrud
Greg Gandrud, the Chief Financial Officer of Fair Education Santa Barbara, Inc. (FESB) is also a member of the Board of Directors. In his Declaration, Gandrud said he is Caucasian. However, he is married to a man of color from Brazil.
Gandrud said at one of the early meetings of FESB, there was discussion about the proposed changes for admission to the academies within the SBUSD, including a proposed change to a quota system. This was of concern to the members of FESB.
Additionally, after reporting serious deficiencies with the facilities at Santa Barbara High School, and about sexual advances to students made by Pablo Sweeney, a representative of a non-profit on campus at the MAD Academy, and the failure of the SBUSD to follow appropriate procedures in response, Gandrud reported receiving personal, vile attacks and on his business. Gandrud said he was called “a racist greedy hatemonger,” a “white nationalist swine,” and a “Republican swine.” Gandrud reported these incidents to the police.
Teacher Kati Hedden
Kati Hedden, a former teacher at La Colina Junior High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, said in her Declaration she was made aware by the administration at La Colina of several programs offered to staff and students by an organization named Just Communities Central Coast (“JCCC”). Two such programs were “Talking In Class” which was offered to students and “Institute for Equity in Education” (“IEE”) which was offered to teachers and staff. She said she was was required by the JCCC program administrator to select several students in her class to attend the program, and was specifically told by JCCC to “only select students of Hispanic ethnicity to attend the Talking in Class program. “Teachers are not permitted to attend the Talking In Class program and, as far as I was made aware, the curriculum is not available for review.”
Hedden said several of her students returned to class from participating in the program “visibly upset and not wanting to return.” She said students told her the they were instructed to yell out names they had been called in the past and many of them were racially charged slurs. Hedden said the students told her this “brought up traumatic memories for this particular student and that he did not want to attend the program any longer. “I felt that this curriculum was too much for even high school students, let alone middle school and junior high students.”
Just Communities Central Coast claims an “expertise in human relations,” to train people in not just schools, but many different fields including health care. JCCC says they are “empowering at-risk teens as leaders in their schools,” while they “bridge differences among those of diverse backgrounds and cultures to strengthen the local community and advance social justice.”
Yet on their IRS Form 990, Just Communities Central Coast describes its mission: “advances social justice by building leadership, fostering change, and dismantling all forms of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression.”
Hedden continued: “Upon further investigation, I learned that the JCCC facilitators running the Talking In Class program are not trained teaching professionals and are not trained in this area. This program was extremely concerning to me because it was being imposed on impressionable young children with no real warning about the possibility of bringing up traumatic issues.”
Hedden said she was also asked by the administration at La Colina to participate in JCCC’s “Institute for Equity in Education” program in the Fall of 2016.
“At the IEE program that I attended, the JCCC instructors required the participants to divide themselves into separate racial groups (e.g. Caucasian participants formed one group and so-called “people of color” formed another group). The Caucasian group was then required to sit and listen to the other group describe their past experiences of racism. The Caucasian group was also required to confirm or deny things such as whether they had ever been let off by the police or whether they had ever individually been accused of being “racist.” However, the Caucasian group was not allowed to explain the circumstances behind any of these issues or to respond to any of the comments from the other group.”
Hedden said she raised the concern that JCCC’s programming seemed to be creating more division and more discrimination amongst people of various backgrounds, and that not allowing Caucasian participants to speak during the program was counter-productive to having an open dialogue. “The JCCC facilitator was not pleased with my comments and informed me that I need to come to terms with my ‘whiteness’ and I was referred to another JCCC program to attend.”
Parent Sheridan Rosenberg
The parent of a high school student, Sheridan Rosenberg, reported in her Declaration that in 2018, she attended a SBUSD School Board meeting where a teacher after teacher stood up and spoke in favor of Just Communities Central Coast and how it taught them about their “white privilege.” Rosenberg said she expressed concerns about the program and its costs, and asked the Board to release a copy of the curriculum.
At a school board meeting the following month, Rosenberg said she again asked the Board for copies of the JCCC curriculum. “I was informed by the Board that they would not allow us to see the curriculum because they did not want to set a precedent by releasing materials from their contracting partners. This made little sense to me, because, as a parent of a student in the district, I should be permitted to see what is being taught.”
Rosenberg shared hassles and hostilities her daughter received at school, including encountering hostility from Hispanic students when she asked them why they were not standing for the pledge of allegiance on September 11th, the day on which the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were being commemorated. This continued into 2018, when her daughter told her again that she was encountering hostility from Hispanic students and staff. “In her first class, students were asked to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and that all but one of her classmates remained seated. The other students were snide with her and the other student while they were saying the Pledge.”
Rosenberg was contacted by the school about her daughter being late to class. When she confronted her about this, her daughter told her “the only bathroom she felt comfortable using was all the way across campus at the MAD academy because the others were filthy and broken.” “In response, she started taking photos of the bathrooms at the MAD Academy (which were spotless) and those at Santa Barbara High which were filthy and in terrible disrepair as a result of flagrant neglect over a period of months and years. She also took many pictures of other conditions throughout the campus. She told me they had not provided any heating for over a year, that many kids were bringing blankets to school, and that one teacher even brought in a toaster oven to stay warm.”
Her daughter reported that during the hot-weather the classrooms were unbearably hot and reeked of body odor.
Rosenberg said she continued to attend school board meetings, and asked about Local Control Accountability Plan (“LCAP”) funding, and why it wasn’t being used to upgrade the facilities. “My purpose was to provide input and suggest that rather than funding JCCC and other non-profits, it would be a better use of funds for the SBUSD to fix its derelict facilities (which in my opinion it is required to do before spending LCAP monies).”
“I also asked questions about why the number one priority in the district’s use of LCAP funds was for “cultural proficiency” rather than reading, writing, math and language skills. 1 asked the district to explain to me exactly what “cultural proficiency” is and was met with a very hostile response from an SBUSD staff person who snidely told me just to “look it up on the web.” Another JCCC supporter very aggressively yelled at me from across the room, accusing me of dominating the conversation and attempting to shout me down.”
Rosenberg said the harassment problems got worse in 2019:
“In late April 2019, my daughter told me that being in her school environment was becoming unbearable. She described how there is a double standard at the school for kids who are Hispanic versus kids who are not. On or about April 28, 2019, I was informed that my daughter was locked out of her Kinesiology class and a group of Hispanic students who were no more than a couple of feet away from her on the other side of the door were taunting her, making fun of her and laughing at her through a big window, that the door was obstructed and they refused to let her in the building, and that she had to fight back tears in front of them because it was not safe to show fear and emotion. When I heard this, I wanted to report this to the principal.”
Rosenberg eventually pulled her daughter from Santa Barbara High School and transferred her to Olive Grove Charter School. She ended her Declaration with:
The climate at the Santa Barbara School District, fostered by the toxic curriculum espoused by JCCC, is creating divisions and antagonistic tensions where they did not previously exist and is antithetical to the values that I believe the Santa Barbara community holds dear.
Attorney Peter Scott, also one of the attorneys for the parents in Fair Education Santa Barbara, filed a Declaration which included an email from a concerned parent regarding Just Communities’ Talking in Class program, to the Santa Barbara School Board:
The first day that he participated, he came home crying very upset saying that he hated being white. That white people were awful! “I can understand why some Latino kids don’t like us” he would say. He also said to me: “Mom, for just a moment I truly felt like killing myself today”. Me being from Spain and being a little over dramatic with expressions, I didn’t give the killing myself statement much attention, but I certainly was shocked with him saying that he hated being white.
Spring Break arrives and he gets a text message on his phone from Just Communities inviting him to go hiking and a flyer where he is asked to bring a friend. Just Communities never texted me letting me know of such an invitation. My son is a minor. He is 14 years old. Just communities had my phone number, but I never gave them my son’s phone number.
When school started the following fall, this parent asked a staff member at the school if the school trained the JCCC group Talking in Class what they need to teach or if they supervise them. The response was they have nothing to do with their training.
Despite parents not being allowed to see the curriculum by the school district, the materials that have leaked to the public include the following:
• “Privileged Groups” include “Men,” “White People,” and “Christian People” and so-called “Target Groups” include “Women,” “People of Color,” and “All Others [as to religion].”
• “Racism” is defined as “[a] system of oppression based on race that privileges white people and targets people of color.”
• “Religious Oppression” is defined as “Christian People” targeting “All Others.”
• “One way of looking at the history of public education in the United States is to see how wealthy people and business shaped the schools to contain and control poor people and turn them into useful workers and consumers. That’s why rich people are willing to support public schools with their tax dollars [sic] because they benefit.”
Attorney Eric Early says there is “clear evidence exists of the discriminatory nature of JCCC’s programming and SBUSD’s adoption” of these programs. He notes “to date SBUSD has paid JCCC over $1,000,000 for this programming. While the instant lawsuit was pending, SBUSD and JCCC entered into another no-bid contract to engage JCCC for 2019-2020 school year at a cost to the taxpayers of $258,115. (SAC, Ex. A.) The 2019-2020 Contract requires JCCC to provide three sessions of the IEE program to SBUSD teachers at a cost of $154,800 and seven Talking In Class programs at a cost of $42,255, among several other programs provided by JCCC.”
The money spent by the Santa Barbara Unified School District on these programs is public funding. It is also notable that parents were not allowed to see the curriculum, paid for by the public through tax dollars.
Parents and teachers consider this curriculum inappropriate and detrimental to their children. Early describes the material as “political and divisive,” and noted that many of the meetings between Just Communities Central Coast and the Santa Barbara school board took place behind closed doors.
Early says the patently discriminatory proposed curriculum is “is a violation of California Government Code and California Education Code.” He added that the curriculum is about ideology, not education, and the program is divisive. “Let the District go about diversity training the proper way.”
California Globe will report on the progress of this lawsuit.Declaration of Sheridan Rosenberg
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