Parents question Kern High School District expulsion practices

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Parents are questioning the process by which the Kern High School District expels students, claiming the net result is that minority students are being expelled at a higher rate than others.

"There's a great disparity when it comes to the African-American student, the Latino student compared to their white counterpart." said Maris Banks, who has four children in school.

Under state law, certain type of student acts at school are considered mandatory expulsions. This includes bringing a weapon on campus, unlawfully selling a controlled substance, committing or attempting to commit a sexual assault, and possession of an explosive.

"We have no problem with mandatory expulsions," said Banks.

The problem, said Banks, is with those expulsions in which the district has discretion on whether or not to expel a student. This includes acts such as possessing drugs or alcohol at school, causing damage to property, disrupting or defying school staff, and others.

"Children of color are disciplined more harshly at a higher rate than the rest of the population," said Kamilah Holmes, an attorney for Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance.

GBLA is representing parents of students who are facing or have been suspended or expelled in the KHSD.

According to data from the district, there were 2,050 expulsions in 2010-11. That number dropped to 1,090 in 2011-12. The latest data shows a dramatic drop in 2012-13.

"The numbers haven't been certified by the state of California, yet, but we believe that when they are, they're going to reflect that the KHSD had less than 300 expulsions last school year," said KHSD spokesman John Teves.

And, the number of discretionary expulsions has also dropped, said Teves. The district could not provide data on how many students expelled were either white, black or Hispanic, because the district does not keep information in that fashion, said Teves.

Kern County 5th District Supervisor Leticia Perez said the district needs to take a new approach to expulsions in order to keep students in school.

"We've got to look at other communities throughout California have tried to work differently with a troubled population," said Perez.